Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Trunk


Old Trunk
Old Trunk  
Hi. A couple months ago you had answered my question regarding this old trunk I purchased. I was wondering how I may go about cleaning it up so it at least stays together and looks a bit better without doing a complete restoration. Below is your email reply to me regarding the trunk.


This trunk is a type that was made to be very light weight and is almost always made of woven rattan or wicker, or sometimes thin wood, covered with a thick painted canvas, or sometimes called oil cloth.  They almost always had leather corners, leather straps, and a leather cover over the lock, such as yours.  These were not called stagecoach trunks when they were made, but over the years many old trunks have been called that.  The trunk is more likely from the period of 1890 to about 1910, but some were made in the 1880's and also as late as about 1920.  There were actually several companies in the Chicago area that made many types of rattan / wicker furniture and trunks and also other trunk makers that either made them or bought them wholesale and then resold them.  These were usually called basket trunks, but sometimes other names were given to them including lightweight continental trunks. The trunk was commercially made and the initials would have been those of the original owner. Trunk sellers would paint initials, names, and/or hometowns on the trunks of customers.  I'm attaching a Goldsmith trunk company catalog page from 1900 with a similar trunk.  They made a few models of these and in several sizes. If there is no label inside the trunk it would be nearly impossible to tell which company made it. Some of these were also made in European countries and they almost always had a lift out tray. A few of the trunk makers did put labels inside the trunks.  I hope that helps.


Since the trunk has some damage and may be somewhat fragile, you would need to treat it carefully or do some minor repairs to keep it together better. I would just clean it carefully with a damp cloth and then possibly treat the leather and canvas with some leather polish or mink oil polish, which won't hurt the canvas either. Or you can use some black polish (liquid or paste)on the black canvas to give it better color. If you polish it then buff it lightly with a soft brush when it's dry. Some of the loose leather or canvas may need to be re-stitched on the edges with some heavy thread or even glued down with some clear epoxy glue. It wouldn't really hurt the value of a trunk in this condition. A restoration would be a challenge on this trunk but it would include replacing some of the broken, missing or loose leather pieces and maybe some of the canvas in certain spots. It is rather difficult or sometimes not possible to improve the condition of very worn leather and canvas covering. There really isn't any other specific advice I can think of to give you on this one.  

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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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