Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Humpback trunk
QUESTION: I've come into possession of an old humpback truck. Inside the lid is states:
Patented Aug.22 1882
It also has a decal in the lower middle right side of a woman in a hat picking grapes.
I cannot locate a manufacturer, designer, anything. I've never had an antique as such; where I know zip about it. S I'm hoping you may know something.
The patent dates which are stamped in the lid of your trunk were for patents awarded to Frederick Kukkuck of St. Louis, MO. He worked for a couple trunk companies in that city and then had the idea for a new way to make the rounded trunk tops, which at that time were called "barrel top trunks". The name "humpback trunk" is a relatively new name but was not used originally for these trunks. I've been studying trunk history for almost 40 years now and have done a great deal of study on these patents and trunk details. Fred Kukkuck actually had several patents which were related to the process of using plywood for the manufacture of trunk tops, which included how to make the plywood, how to specially cut the wood and how to use a special press to form the rounded tops. He started a company which was called the St Louis Patent Trunk Top Company, and later it became the Schoenlau-Kukkuck Trunk Top and Veneer Company. They made the round tops for trunk companies, mostly in the mid-west area, and they made veneers for furniture companies. These plywood round trunk tops were eventually used by many trunk makers across the country, mostly from the mid 1880's until about 1910. Mr. Kukkuch was first a cabinet maker who came to America in 1873 and he died in St. Louis in 1917. Many people think that a trunk company made all of their own parts and hardware for their trunks, but they actually bought many of the parts and nearly all of the hardware from other companies. Some trunk companies had special hardware made for them with their name on it. Many trunks are found with no makers label on it. Trunks were made by hundreds of trunk makers in the late 1800's to early 1900's and there is very little information available on many of them. It is most likely that your trunk was made by one of the dozen different trunk companies of St. Louis, or another trunk maker in the mid-west. It is most likely from about 1885 to 1900 in age. The patents at that time were issued for 21 years, but sometimes other companies would copy patented items. Many of these plywood top trunks were covered with the embossed metal covering, which was also most popular from the mid 1880's to about 1910. Some parts of a trunk have the patent date, while others do not. Sometimes the lock also has the name of the lock company and a patent date. Without a label from the trunk maker it is nearly impossible to tell which company made it. But there were a few trunk makers that nearly always put a label or tag on their trunks or which used their own patented designs for the hardware. I can identify some of them in this way, but only because I have studied hundreds of trunk related patents, old trunk catalogs, advertisements, company histories, etc., etc.
The pictures in a trunk were printed by large printing companies and sold to trunk makers, and there were hundreds of different pictures which were used. So again it is very rare that a picture will help identify the trunk maker. The pictures in the trunks were called chromolithographs and they were used mostly from about 1880 to around 1915. I hope this information helps you some.
Marvin Miller, ThisOldTrunk.com
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QUESTION: Thanks so much!! I do want to attempt further research and am hoping some of the hardware with help.
The hardware, maybe,??, is distinctive.
You mention seperate makers of the trunk itself. May I have a list of who he designed lids for so I may continue to research?
The hardware items shown in your pictures are not distinctive to a particular trunk maker. The latch was patented in 1882 by the John Sessions trunk hardware company of New Britain CT and they sold these to trunk makers all over the US until about 1915. The stamped metal trim and slat clamps were patented in 1880 and again used into the 1910s by many trunk companies. Since Kukkuck was in St. Louis and there were several large trunk companies there, it would seem that he would first make the lids for them and then possibly sell them in other cities with trunk makers in the Midwest and south, such as Nashville. I'm attaching two pages from a 1911 Nashville trunk company (Lipscomb Trunk Co.) that made trunks with the pressed veneer tops such as Kukkuck made. You can see in their description that the tops were veneer barrel top trunks and metal covered. That is not the only type of trunk they made, as with most trunk makers. In St. Louis Kukkuck worked for the Hickman Trunk CO the then the P.C.Murphy Trunk Co. for a while before he started his own business. St. Louis also had the Summers Trunk Company, Herkert & Meisel Trunk Co., T.L.Horn Trunk company, Stromberg, Kraus & Co., and the nearby St. Joseph Trunk Co. of St. Joseph, MO. Each of these companies made a wide range of trunk styles. He got his first patent while working for P.C. Murphy, so they may have used some of his tops, but I expect that by the time this trunk was made, the tops were being used by a dozen or more trunk makers, including Lipscomb in Nashville. I think now you can see why it is often difficult to narrow down the maker for particular trunks, as most of the hardware, locks, and parts were used by many companies. That is about all I can tell you.