I am planning to restore/refurbish this dome top trunk. I am hoping you can help narrow down the date range for its probable age. Based on some research, it looks like the lock was made by Star Lock Works. The brass key escutcheon is marked "Patd Mar. 69 & Apr 77" and has two small stars. The trunk has grooved slats and metal covering with no embossing. Could the metal covering have originally been crystallized tin? Some of the hardware seems to be of lower quality than other trunks I have seen (thinner metal, less ornate), and the tray supports inside are just rectangular metal pieces embedded in the corners. This makes me suspect that it may have been a lower quality trunk of its day. Any information you might have would be very much appreciated.
It appears you have tried to do your homework on this. But unfortunately for more people it is very hard to find the detailed information about the age of these trunks. But with MANY hours of research over several years I have uncovered more details and I am now working on a booklet which can help with this. Your trunk is a very good example of trunks that have a mixture of patented hardware and some of them are not marked. For example the slat clamps on your trunk were patented in 1880 by Charles Taylor. The front latches were patented in 1882. Star Lock Co. made the lock and that style was last patented in 1877, but those were used on trunks until about 1920. I have many old trunk catalogs and one from 1920 shows that they were still making trunks of that style with the same hardware. There were newer styles of hardware but many of the old parts were popular and companies kept using it for many years. These trunks were made with both the embossed metal and the crystallized metal, which was a chemical process to coat the metal, usually tin. The older trunks were covered with sheet iron, which was either painted, japanned, or sometimes crystallized. The trunk style was called a Cross Slat trunk with a Round (or barrel) top. The old catalogs used these terms and names. These trunks were never called Dome Top, Camel Back, Hump Back, etc. like people are calling them now. They were called Round Top or Barrel Top in all the old catalogs I have. You are correct that this trunk was not a high quality trunk, it was just an average trunk that was fairly inexpensive and made by many trunk companies. All trunk makers had their cheaper models and their higher quality trunks. Some people say that certain companies made only the best trunks or trunks for the "elite"...that is totally incorrect according to the old catalogs. Even the well known companies made their cheap models to have trunks in every price range and in many sizes. You certainly can't believe much of what you read on ebay from those sellers. Some of the trunks from the same time period were very ornate with expensive cast ornate hardware and heavy solid brass locks. So, your trunk could have been made between about 1890 to 1920 based on all the hardware and the style. I'm attaching a couple old catalog pages for your which show similar trunks from 1909 and 1920, but there were many more and each had their own small differences. Some companies such as Seward Trunk & Bag company had about a dozen different models which looked similar to yours.
I hope that answers all your questions. I have a few keys that fit those locks if you are interested in buying one
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.
Organizations Association of American Antique Trunk Restorers, President.
Publications Primarily on the website www.ThisOldTrunk.com
Cotton & Quail Antiques newspaper (Southeast). Antique Journal magazine.
Education/Credentials 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.
Past/Present Clients 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.