Collectibles-General (Antiques)/trunk


QUESTION: Hello again….I would love to know about this trunk. I would like to use it for historical painting subjects, so it would be very useful to learn the age of this type of trunk. Would it be accurate to use it for American overland trail…early years, late 1840s-60?
It is lined with two layers of newspaper, the newest being Salt Lake City, early 1908, and the oldest layer looks like a German type of language, very tiny Gothic style font. I've not examined it closely enough to search for a date on that one. There is a name on the front which looks like a stencil. Last name Hagen and I can't make out the first name, or initials.
Thank you,

ANSWER: Heide,
This trunk or chest is a "home made"(or blacksmith made/handmade)item, rather than a production style trunk from a trunk factory, so it is much more difficult to put an accurate age on it. Many chests or trunks of this type were made in Europe and brought to American by immigrants so many people call these immigrant chests. The style of the chest and the ironwork, lock, and forged handles indicate it was likely made between the early 1800s to as late as the late 1800's. It is a rather wide time period and while there were some mass produced parts, such as iron handles and locks, from the mid to late 1800's, not everyone had them or used them. So, it is nearly impossible to tell where this was made or when, without there being some historical information with it. The paper lining could have been added anytime after it was made, but the oldest paper could be the original lining as sometimes old newspapers or book pages were used as trunk lining.  That could also help support the possibility that this was made in Europe.  So, this could have been used to travel across American in the mid 1800's.


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QUESTION: this is not a question, but I wanted to thank you for your speedy reply. I had figured this was a "homemade" sort of European immigrant trunk…and you have given me the answer that I needed. That it is a type that is accurate for overland trail portrayals. I just wanted to be sure I wasn't making a huge mistake in an upcoming painting.
When I got it out today, I noticed for the first time that the interior looks to have been painted orange, even underneath the paper layers. I'm going to poke around in there when I have time and try to find a date on the oldest paper, just out of curiosity. Thank you again for sharing your expertise!

Heide, you're welcome.  And yes, it is also possible that the chest was painted inside. I've seen some with old original paint, inside and out, and others which had never been painted.
I'd love to see your paintings sometime. Hope it goes very well.  


Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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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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