Collectibles-General (Antiques)/very old trunk



Hello-  I have a very old trunk that my grandmother always said belonged to Governor William Bradford and came with him on the Mayflower.  I know how family lore goes, so never took much stock in the story.  I am, however, a proven direct descendant of Governor William Bradford and was accepted to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants last year.

I finally took a good look at the trunk, which now belongs to my father.  It's obviously very old.  It's lined with newspapers from the 1820s, so I know it's at least 200 years old.  I just don't know if the trunk was new when the newspapers were placed there, or if they were added at a later date.  I know it will probably be impossible to attribute the trunk to Bradford, or anyone for that matter, but I'm hoping we can at least get a ballpark date on the trunk.  Is it even possible that it's 400 years old, or is it just 200?

The trunk is almost exactly 4-feet wide, 30.5-inches deep, and 3-feet high.  The hinges appear to be leather.  I tried to take close-up pictures of the hinges, nails and locking mechanism (from both the outside and inside) to hopefully help date the piece.  There were leather handles on each side at one point because you can still see where they attached to the trunk.

It looks like I can only upload 2 pictures with my question so I'm uploading a picture of the lock and a hinge since I think that will probably help you the most.  The trunk has a dome top and covered in what appears to be leather.  I have many more pictures I can send you.

Thanks so much for your time and help.


Based on your overall description of the trunk and the pictures you provided I can say that it fits the general description of most trunks made from the late 1700's to around the 1830's. It was also very common for trunks during that period to be lined with newspapers and I have seen many and owned a few also, with newspaper lining from about 1805 to the 1830's. Some of the trunks from that period were lined with fabric and some with printed paper, but the newspaper lining was not unusual. So without seeing the trunk I would have to say that it is probable that the newspaper lining is original. The hand forged locks and leather hinges are nearly impossible to date precisely, so all that tells me is that they are typical for the late 1700's to early 1800's. Since trunks made earlier than that, which were made in Europe and brought over by ship 400 years ago are extremely scarce, it would be very hard for any expert to authenticate them based on a couple pictures. I would really need to see a few more pictures of the complete trunk, including front and sides, in order to tell more about it.  Even then with trunks that old it is very hard to tell a more accurate age since they were handmade and before any patent system was in place. It would probably take a close inspection by a real early antiques expert to authenticate any item being more than 200 years old. I would be glad to look at more pictures and see what I can tell you.  You can send more pictures to


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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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