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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Small square steamer type trunk


QUESTION: I rescued a small square trunk that has hardware w/terryville Conn. usa dec.6 1892 patent date Eagle lock co. .Also the corners are ornate w/scallop type seashells.The whole trunk super sturdy,no key and brass and trunk been painted!,long ago.Leather handles in expected shape,family came from Penn.Wonder if worth refinishing and maybe hat or valuables trunk?{16 1/2"h x 16 1/2 L x 12 .1/2 W}Any info would be appreciated!thx-Aggie

1900 Hat Trunk
1900 Hat Trunk  
1885 Bonnet or Hat trunk
1885 Bonnet or Hat tru  
ANSWER: Hello Aggie,

From about the 1860's through the 1920's many trunk companies made small square or nearly square trunks primarily as hat trunks. A few square trunks were made for other purposes but most of them as yours is described were made as hat or bonnet trunks. Each company usually made them in 2 or 3 sizes and some had special hat holders and sometimes the hat cushions were an option you could purchase. Some had small trays or compartments in the lid and some did not. Since many companies made them, there were a lot of variations in how they were made. Since your trunk has a lot with the Eagle patent date of 1892, the trunk could have been made anytime from about 1893 through about 1920 as those locks were used for many years. There were also many styles of hardware made in the early 1900's including the seashell design, which I have also had on a few trunks I've sold over the years.  The hardware was made by large trunk hardware companies so many different trunk companies could have used it.  Some of these trunks have a label from the trunk maker but many don't.So without a label, it's nearly impossible with most of these trunks to tell which company made it. The trunks were made with either canvas, paper, metal, or even leather covering and some were fairly plain and others quite ornate and very strong.  Some had a top handle but many had side handles like a larger trunk. So without seeing your trunk I would say it is most likely a hat trunk and from the late 1890's to about 1915. Since these hat trunks are generally harder to find than the regular size trunks the values are usually a little higher, depending on condition, completeness, age, etc.  I have a variety of old trunk maker's catalogs that I've been able to buy over the years and I'm attaching pictures from a couple that show hat or bonnet trunks.  I can only attach 2 pictures but I have several others.  I hope this helps.  
Marvin Miller

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QUESTION: Thank You for answering so quickly!I had thought the trunk was locked but a man in the family realizes just jammed,poped it open and the label on inside says...est.1864-Central Trunk Factory 46-48+53 N. seventh st. Philidelphia.Simons and company theatrical trunks,Bill and litho trunks,Property trunks,Sample trunks,Dress and Suit cases,& bags of every description!Guess that about says it those old labels and signs.The pictures you sent the basic one on left looks very much like it. although its missing a pull out tray inside clean,shows use,canvas lined + looks like part of leather belt in bottom interior{to hold down stuff on bottom?}I know have been stored for a decade in old attic&previous 30 yr.another victorian house seems restoring is up to me or expensive and wonder if the trunk collecters prefer restored? Worth more re-finishedor left painted most of the paint kinda worn off.thanks again for info! Aggie

That's great that your trunk has the label, so you know where it's from and you can see what I was saying about trunk makers having all types of trunks and in different sizes. Many companies like Simons were established in the 1860's and stayed in business into the early 1900's. The piece of leather in the bottom was usually a piece to hold the removable hat holders that many of the hat trunks had. While these are worth more restored it's only if they are done properly and a good job without ruining the trunk in some way. Many people are using polyurethane finish on trunks which is not the best finish for trunks of this type. If you are looking to sell it, I would advise that you try to sell it as it is because you can spend more on restoring it and then still not make any extra money on it.  If the restoration is not done well and professionally it can hurt the value.  
Thanks and please leave feedback.  


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Marvin D. Miller


I can answer questions related to antique trunks, their age, manufacturers, styles, patents, etc, including all types of trunks such as steamer trunks, saratoga trunks, Victorian trunks, slat trunks, toy and doll trunks, stagecoach trunks, valises, hat trunks, and others.


I have over 40 years experience in trunk restoration, collecting, and research. I own the most extensive collection of historical documents, catalogs, maker's labels, cards, etc. related to antique trunks. I am always updating my inventory of historical documents and antique trunks.

Association of American Antique Trunk Restorers, President.

Primarily on the website Cotton & Quail Antiques newspaper (Southeast). Antique Journal magazine.

Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia. I have conducted extensive research related to the topic of trunk manufacturers and trunk styles in the U.S. and Europe.

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Have consulted for the Pawn Stars TV show on antique trunks. I have sold antique trunks to museums in California and Florida and to customers around the world.

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