You are here:

Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Age, Manufacturer, etc.?

Advertisement


Question
Trunk
Trunk  
This trunk has been in my family for many decades.  I think it's what would be considered a flat-top steamer with slats and straps (although there's little left of the straps on the backside).  As best anyone knows, this belonged to my great grandmother's grandmother, which would (in terms of that narrative, if it's correct) put this trunk in the Utah territory in ca. 1855.

Is there anything you can tell me at all about this trunk?  I've looked the thing over, both inside and out, top and bottom, and there doesn't seem to be a manufacturer listed, even.  The surface is quite aged, so perhaps this information has simply been covered?

Any guidance is appreciated.

Thank you.

Shane

Answer
1897 trunk catalog
1897 trunk catalog  

1897 trunks
1897 trunks  
Shane,
Yes, I can tell you several things about this trunk, but unfortunately they are going to conflict with the history that you may have believed about the trunk. But I've had that happen quite a few times over the years as the history of trunks and other antiques sometimes gets changed or lost as it gets passed on.  This trunk is canvas covered over wood with hardwood slats and also has a feature called "angle steel binding" which was first introduced around 1896. Prior to that this style trunk was made from about 1890 with that style hardware but without the angled steel on the edges. The stamped steel metal latches of that type were first used about 1890 but were used until the 1930's. In the 1850's and 1860's there were no metal latches used on trunks and only leather tie-down straps were used. Also, the canvas covering was not used until about 1880 and then became a very popular covering until the 1920's. I have a number of old trunk catalogs I've collected over 40 years, from the 1860's to 1930's and this angled steel binding style was shown as a new style in the Montgomery Ward trunk catalog of 1896-7 and they sold for about $10. Many of these trunks don't have a makers label and many were sold by large retail stores such as Montgomery Ward or Sears & Roebuck, or in luggage and furniture stores. These were made in several sizes and used by men and women. Only the short models, up to 13 inches tall, were called a "steamer trunk" when they were made. The taller trunks such as this were sometimes called a dress trunk or a packing trunk. The short models were made to fit under bunks on the steamships, so that's how they got their name steamer trunk. You can see that shown in a couple old trunk catalog pages I'm attaching for you of this angled steel binding trunks.  I hope that helps and while the trunk is not as old as you thought, it's great that you have an antique trunk that was owned by family members.
Marvin
ThisOldTrunk.com  

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Marvin D. Miller

Expertise

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.

Experience

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.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.