Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Jenny Lind trunk


I would like to know the date of this trunk. The interior is lined with fabric…the tray is missing.
The exterior is covered with black leather. I would like to use it in an historical painting, so need to know the date as close as possible. Is it accurate for pre-1854, or is it later?
Can you recommend any catalogs from trunk makers during 1830-1860? I would like a source that has detailed information, but have only been able to find books with general dating.
Thank you for your time!

ANSWER: Hello Heide,

That is a nice Jenny Lind style trunk you have. I have spent a great deal of time researching this type trunk over the past 25 years and even wrote a fairly detailed article on the topic. Most of the information that has been circulated or written about these trunks is not historically accurate. This style trunk was first made in the U.S. sometime about 1848 to 1849 and may have originally been designed with the great California gold rush in mind, with the large brass head nails meant to resemble large gold nuggets. That may seem a little unusual, but that is what all the historical evidence supports. Over time these picked up the name of Jenny Lind, who toured the U.S. from 1850 to 1852, and many types of items were named for her. So, this type trunk was used in the early 1850's, but your trunk may have been made later such as in the 1860's. There were a few of these trunks still being made in the early 1870's by some makers. I know that because there are a few parts which were patented in 1870 and 1871 which are found on some of the last Jenny Lind trunks. It is very hard to know the exact age of these trunks and the only parts on most of these that help determine the age are the locks, as new types were patented between the 1840's to the 1860's. (I've done extensive research in the patent files for information on trunk styles, locks, and other parts.) The higher quality trunks were covered with leather, had fabric lining, and the brass covered banding. I would say the trunk would be appropriate for the time period of about 1852 to the mid 1860's.  These were made for many years and the trunk styles did not change very quickly during that time period. Concerning catalogs, no trunk makers catalogs have been found from that time period, so other sources of information were used for the historical evidence such as listings in early business directories, trunk labels, patents, and early trunk advertisements, which are rather difficult to find. The first mail order catalog was put out by Montgomery Ward in 1875, and it included a few pages of trunks, but not this particular style. So, there is no source I know of concerning details of these trunks.  
I hope that is helpful.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Your answer is extremely helpful. No wonder I had trouble finding information. I would very much like to read your paper. Where may I find it, or purchase it?

Another question….who would have used this trunk? Was it very expensive, or could it have been owned by middle class?  To portray it properly in paintings, I need to know who would have owned it.

thank you!

I also wanted to ask you about the green painted wooden trunk seen underneath the Jenny Lind. May I send you another question about it with pictures?

From what I have seen over the last 35 years of restoring trunks is that these were used by men and women, and most likely middle to upper class since this was a leather covered trunk with the brass banding.  I've had them with both mens and ladies names on them, or cards tacked to them.  There were cheaper versions of this trunk made, with less brass and less expensive covering, such as a composition paper covering or oilcloth.  The article I've written is available on the Research page at my website, Jenny Lind and Saratoga Trunks.

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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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