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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/James S. Topham Trunk




Hello and I hope you are having a lovely weekend! I just picked this trunk up at a garage sale and I wanted to know about it's history!  It is in a little bit of rough shape, the plate on the top says:  "Estate of James S. Topham/Maker Washington D.C./Contract of August 1 1912/Delivered at Philidelphia PA...  Measurements are:  30.5 length, 16 3/4 width, 14 height.  Any information on history and value is greatly appreciated!

James Topham
James Topham  

Your trunk, made by James S. Topham of Washington, D.C., was made for the military under a government contract issued on Aug.1,1912. James S. Topham was born in 1823 and died in May of 1912 and established his trunk and bag company on Pennsylvania Ave in 1855.  His company made all types of trunks and traveling bags, as well as some other traveling goods and harnesses. The Army needed trunks and footlocker style trunks every few years and they would issue the specifications and award the contract to several different trunk makers to supply these. So the label on the trunk is related to the government contract and that the trunks were delivered to the Philadelphia depot per the contract terms. Most of the labels had "James S. Topham, Maker, etc.", but it's possible that yours has the word "Estate" since Topham died earlier in 1912 and the company was going through a change in ownership. The company continued making trunks and bags until about 1930.  This trunk is made of wood, covered with vulcanized fiber which is a hard pressed, heat treated fiberboard material.  It was used on many trunks of the early 1900's through the 1960's as it was very durable, lightweight, and inexpensive compared to leather or metal. The locks on these trunks were usually made by the Eagle Lock Company, Corbin, Yale, or a couple other American lock companies.   
I hope that helps.
Marvin Miller,

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 I own the most extensive collection of historical documents, catalogs, maker's labels, cards, etc.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.

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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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