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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Leather Trimmed Steamer Trunk



Dear Marvin,
I thoroughly respect and enjoy the expertise you share concerning trunks. Thank you for your professional service to the community.
Could you share your knowledge on this trunk, including rarity (if any), value, construction, date, maker, etc? I wonder why a steamer trunk would not have the protective wood slats, although the trunk seems solid. Can you determine if the handles are original? They are fastened with a slotted screw and washer.
It appears to have a canvas type covering with leather decorative trimming. Would it be difficult to strip the canvas/glue (not the leather)to expose the wood or would that hurt the value? The brass lock and hardware is solid and non magnetic. The lock is marked:
PAT DEC 6 1892


Stenciled on one side is:

The front latches are stamped with the numeral 4.

Trunk dimensions:32"L 19"W 13"H

It also has two applied, partially missing shipping labels from:
Railway Express Agency
Scranton, PA

Thank you for your expertise.

1911 steamer trunks
1911 steamer trunks  

1900 steamer trunks
1900 steamer trunks  

Thanks for your comments. First, that is a true "steamer" trunk, which is the style made up to 14" tall per steamship line regulations, to be allowed in the cabins. The solid brass lock and brass braces were used on higher quality trunks. Some of these trunks were made "slatless" and they also had their models with the hardwood slats. Each old trunk company catalog that I've found shows both types and several models. I believe the actual leather handles have been replaced, but the brass holders are original. The original multi-layered handles of this style had a large brass rivet and washer in the ends rather than a screw and washer. The handles are the sliding style of course. The number 4 on the latches are the size, made in sizes 1 through 5, larger numbers were larger sized. That type latch was used from the 1880's to the early 1920's, by many trunk makers. The covering does appear to be brown canvas and it's usually not that difficult to remove and then the glue can be removed with a little carefully controlled dampening with a wet sponge or cloth and putty knife. The edge binding on these trunks was made with either tanned leather, rawhide leather, or vulcanized fiber (colored to resemble leather). It can be hard to tell the fiber from leather from pictures. Usually real leather will be softer, unless totally dried out in which case it becomes very brittle and cracks or breaks easily. The fiber held up much better most of the time and is fairly hard and smooth. It will sometimes chip or crack also, but with real leather you can usually see the grain or fibers of the leather, so by examining closely you should be able to tell the difference. By enlarging your close up picture, the binding looks like fiber to me.  That doesn't lower the value of the trunk since most people can't really tell the difference anyway.  Many trunk companies made similar trunks from the 1890's until about 1920. It is safe to say the trunk was made about 1900 to 1910 most likely. Some companies used labels on most of their trunks but many are found without a label. The trunk is not a rare type, but with the solid brass hardware and scalloped trim, it is harder to find than the "average" steamer trunk.  In my opinion the trunk would be beautiful with the canvas removed and wood refinished well. (If done carefully and well). Some people may disagree with that so you will have to make the decision as to how you prefer it.  The 28 on the lock is the key code, so it takes an Eagle 28 key, which can still be found.  I'm attaching a couple early catalog pages of similar steamer trunks so you can see how they described them. This model steamer trunk with the brass hardware usually has a value in the range of about $250 to $400 as is, and maybe more in some areas.

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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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