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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Inherited this Trunk


Curved Top Trunk
Curved Top Trunk  

Inside Tray Paper lined
Inside Tray Paper line  
I have checked for markings everywhere on this trunk including the locks and there is nothing that I can see.  I am wondering if you knew anything about it.  I am going to have it restored so I can be brought back to life and used.  Any help or advice would be appreciated.

This trunk is one of many styles made from the mid 1880's to the late 1890's. Most companies that made these just called them zinc covered travel trunks. The grayish colored metal is zinc with stamped designs and this was a popular covering used on American trunks from the late 1870's until the mid 1890's. But the front latches on your trunk are a very common style that was patented in 1882 and used for over 25 years. So the trunk could not be earlier than about 1883, and is more likely several years later than that. Nearly all trunk companies made similar styles and many sizes of these, as well as trunks covered with paper, canvas, and leather.  Many old trunks are found without a maker's label or dates of manufacture. Some parts and locks are marked with patent dates and some are not. I know the particular dates for many trunk part patents because I have spent countless hours going through patent documents and have copies of a couple hundred trunk related patents. Since many of these parts were made by hardware companies, they were sold to trunk makers across the country.  Therefore, without a maker's label it is usually impossible to identify the actual maker, but it is still possible to tell the approximate age from the hardware. Often the locks are marked with the lock company name, but they didn't make trunks. Some trunk companies had locks made with their name on them, but they were actually made by large lock companies such as Eagle, Corbin, or Yale.  Most trunks of this style were lined with printed paper and had chromolithographs inside, such as yours, which were printed by large printing companies.  The trunk makers purchased these in bulk from print companies and trunk supply companies. Very few trunk makers actually made any of the components of the trunks except for the wooden body.  The zinc on the trunks was not painted but has slowly oxidized.  It can be cleaned a little or buffed to a higher shine. The other sheet metal is usually sheet iron and was always black. The hardware (latches, corner clamps, etc.) on these trunks was usually cast malleable iron and sometimes stamped steel or tin. Most of it was also painted black.  The locks were usually tin coated or nickel plated brass. The paper lining often needs to be removed, but the trim and pictures can usually be preserved by a good restorer.  These trunks always had a lift out tray, made of wood. The wood slats can easily be cleaned and refinished. Original style leather handles can be found now.  This trunk can certainly be restored to look very original and be very useful and attractive.  


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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.

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.

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