Collectibles-General (Antiques)/N.J. Whalen trunk
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could give me any more information about this trunk? Here is what I have: The trunk is made by N.J. Whalen Manchester N.H. and is 36.5 X 21 X 25.5. It's black with wood straps and leather handles. The top inside drawer is removable. It has a label on the inside cover. It belonged to my step-father in the 1960's. I have more photos if needed. Thanks in advance for any information you may have.
It's nice that your trunk has the original label and the inner tray (trunk makers never called them drawers). It's a style that was made by most trunk makers from the 1890's until the 1910's. They gave them different model names sometimes such as a "Gent's trunk", but most just called them by how they were covered, such as metal covered, canvas covered, etc. Sometimes the ladies trunks were called "dress trunks". They were not called steamer trunks because that is a special style that was made very low, only up to 14" tall by steamship line regulations. Most had the paper lining and sometimes a lithograph picture to two inside. These were made in many sizes and variations, with some having leather tie-down straps or other types of covering. It looks like the lock is probably solid brass and those were made by several lock companies and often the name of the lock company and a key code is on the lock. The wood slats were hardwood, usually elm and sometimes ash, hickory or oak. It appears to be in pretty nice original condition and these flat top trunks can be very useful. I'm attaching a couple old catalog pages with similar style trunks, from 1900 and 1911 from other companies. Also, here is a description of the N.J. Whalen company from the early 1900's. They did change locations at some point to a factory on Elm St.
N. J. Whalen, Manufacturer of and Dealer in Harnesses, Trunks, Bags, Horse Clothing,
Cynthiannia Horse Boots, Nos. 99 and 101 Merrimack Street. This gentleman, who is an ac-
knowledged expert leader in his responsible vocation, having had many years valuable experience therein, founded his business here in 1880, bringing energy and progressive ideas to bear in his management, the result being that a large, flourishing trade was soon acquired. The premises forming the headquarters of the enterprise consist of a commodious two-story building, excellently fitted up throughout and supplied with every appliance requisite. The salesroom is filled with a large, valuable stock which embraces harness, horse and stable equipage, horse blankets, lap robes, whips, etc.; also a splendid line of trunks and bags. A specialty of the house is the manufacture of harness and saddles. Five expert
hands are employed, only the best stock is used,and the production is noted for its elegance, style and finish, while the prices are always uniformly reasonable. Mr. Whalen is a native of this state.
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QUESTION: Thanks Marvin for your speedy response. I was wondering if the following information would help with a value of this trunk, as well as more detailed photos? The lock is marked "Corbin Cabinet Lock Co. New Britain Conn. ST1. and the inside paper liner is plaid with a label of a young girl and brown calf. Can you guess about what year this trunk was made? Is it worth restoring of sell it as is? Thanks again for your time and expertise.
Based on the two addresses on the label, I would estimate this trunk was made sometime between about 1900 to 1915, give or take a couple years. It isn't really possible to narrow it down any further as they made them for many years with the same parts, pictures, etc. Many trunk makers used the same pictures which they bought from printing companies. I've seen the very same picture in trunks made by other trunk makers. They used locks from about 5 or 6 lock companies and the Corbin lock such as yours was used from the late 1880s until the 1920's, again by many different trunk makers. The ST1 is the key code and you can buy an original key for that style lock, which I also sell for about $15. A variety of lining papers was used also, so it doesn't help narrow down the year, and it was also used by other trunk companies.
Concerning restoration, it really depends what your plans are for the trunk. If you plan to sell it, you probably would do just as well to sell it as is because if someone wants to restore it, they can do it or have it done the way they prefer. Some people like to leave the interior original while others like to have them relined. I would suggest just cleaning it a little and selling as is if you intend to sell it. Since restoration cost could easily be $200 or more, you would have to decide how much you want to invest in it. In its current condition this type trunk can usually be found in the range of around $100 up to about $200 depending on location. While it makes it more interesting and can help,the label doesn't increase the value that much on this type trunk.
Hope that all helps.