I found this wardrobe trunk at Goodwill and it just called my name! It appears that someone painted over it and possibly covered the drawers with drawer liner paper and I am interested in trying to get it back into a somewhat good condition. Before I tackle any restoration, I was hoping to find out more info about the manufacturer and possibly what it should look like. I have tried researching the company online and haven't had much luck. The trunk has five drawers on the right side and hangers and a small luggage box on the other side, covered by a "curtain." The plate on the outside reads "Osterweil Bros. Inc., Newark, NJ" and, "Paxrite Trade Mark Trunks." Any info would be most appreciated!
The Osterweil Bros. trunk company was one of about eight trunk companies in Newark in the early 1900's. The largest was the Goldsmith & Sons trunk company, which claimed to have the largest trunk factory in the country. I expect Osterweil was quite a bit smaller and I hae seen a couple of their wardrobe trunks over the years. There's very little information published on most trunk companies, especially the smaller ones. I've researched trunk makers for many years and have a fair amount of information on several of them, but don't have any specific history information on Osterweil. I can tell you that this wardrobe trunk is a typical style that many companies made and it is covered with vulcanized fiber which is a heat treated pressed fiber material that was used by most trunk companies from about 1900 to the 1950's. This wardrobe trunk is a model made primarily from about 1920 through the 1930's. Most of the material I've seen on wardrobe trunks says the small case was a shoe box. Some models had elaborate interiors including a fold down desk, several locking compartments, and even a folding ironing board with travel iron. I get many questions about these wardrobe trunks and wrote a summary about their history on the Showcase page of the website, which you may want to read also. At the peak of trunk production in the 1920's and 30's there were actually hundreds of trunk makers in the U.S. Newark, NJ was one of 8 to 10 major trunk manufacturing cities. I can't see much of the exterior of your trunk, so I can't see how it was painted, but the fiber covering on these trunks was made in several colors, mostly dark colored. It is sometimes mistaken for leather by people not familiar with the fiber covering and some was even brown colored to resemble leather. I'm attaching a couple pictures of similar wardrobe trunks from a 1920 catalog, but you can see more pictures on my Showcase page under Wardrobe Trunk History. I hope that's helpful for you.
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.
Organizations Association of American Antique Trunk Restorers, President.
Publications Primarily on the website www.ThisOldTrunk.com
Cotton & Quail Antiques newspaper (Southeast). Antique Journal magazine.
Education/Credentials 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.