Antique Steamer Trunk

You may often see an antique steamer trunk for sale at flea markets, auctions antique stores or occasionally at garage sales. Many people take an interest in antique steamer trunks because they are a sentimental family heirloom or just simply because they find them interesting and/or functional.

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Antique Steamer Trunks

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An antique steamer trunk, also called a travel trunk was used for transporting clothing and personal effects when traveling. Steamer trunk is  a generic term that was coined from a particular type of trunk that was only about 14 inches tall. The reason for them being called steamer trunks is because those particular trunks were used on steam ships. Carry on size regulations existed on ships just like airplanes today, this is why true steamer trunks were so short in height. In modern times we have carried over the term steamer trunk to describe any and all types of antique trunks. In this article we will use the term steamer trunk to describe all trunks for simplicity.

An antique steamer trunk, also called a travel trunk was used for transporting clothing and personal effects when traveling. Steamer trunk is  a generic term that was coined from a particular type of trunk that was only about 14 inches tall. The reason for them being called steamer trunks is because those particular trunks were used on steam ships. Carry on size regulations existed on ships just like airplanes today, this is why true steamer trunks were so short in height. In modern times we have carried over the term steamer trunk to describe any and all types of antique trunks. In this article we will use the term steamer trunk to describe all trunks for simplicity.

Steamer trunks starting appearing in about 1870 and were popular until about 1925. The reason that steamer trunks came to popularity in the the 1870’s is because of the expansion of railroads. Railroads allowed people to travel much farther and faster than ever before in man kind. This ability to travel gave birth to many trunk manufactures around the United States. It is estimated that thousands of trunk makers were in business from 1870 until 1930, the late Victorian Era.

Picture of a antique steamer trunk made by martin maierMost antique steamer trunk manufactures either did not mark their trunks or were marked with a non durable paper label. This has made it very difficult to identify particular trunk manufactures. Some more notable manufactures did have proprietary hardware manufactured for them. Martin Maier of Detroit, MI ran a notable trunk business and often used identifiable hardware as seen in the photograph to the left.  He also sold very distinguishable trunks made from rounded wooden slats, these trunks are highly sought after by collectors today.

Many styles of steamer trunks were produced but the most common type was the flat top and dome topped trunk. The reasoning behind the different styles was only for each trunk to be aesthetically pleasing. Other rarer designs of trunks include monitor top trunks, bevel top and wall trunks. Manufactures were always looking for niches within industries just as they do today.

Saratoga trunks, named after the resort town of Saratoga Springs in New York state were  larger trunks with many decorative touches added to them. They were often covered in decorative leather or metal work and also had extensive interior compartments for small personal effects like parasols and jewelry.

Large high end antique trunk makers like Goyard and Louis Vuitton were used by the very wealthy while the lower and middle class used less expensive steamer trunks.

 

Antique Steamer trunk with a bevel top

Bevel Top Trunk

Picture of a waterfall antique steamer trunk

Monitor top trunk

Picture of a dome top steamer trunk

Dome Top Trunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most trunk are typically covered in flat tin, embossed tin, canvas/duck cloth, wood slats, waterproof paper or in early times animal hide. Some of the hire end steamer trunks were covered in leather and had a design of some type tooled into the leather.

During the mid to late 1920’s antique steamer trunks started to disappear and were eventually replaced with large wardrobe trunk and then more modern luggage choices there after.

 

Antique steamer trunk options

picture of an antique steamer trunk by martin maier

Many people either restore or refinish there steamer trunk. This can be done professionally or you can learn about steamer trunk restoration and follow our guides. Some people may prefer a more rustic look and simply clean up the trunk and remove the odors from inside.

A antique steamer trunk (flat top) can easily be used for a coffee table. You can go to any large home improvement store and have a sheet of glass cut to your measurements to be used as a top.

An antique dome top steamer trunk makes a wonderful blanket chest that can be placed at the end of a bed. Trunks are beautiful but also remain functional and useful.

 

Where to buy an antique streamer trunk

Restored antique steamer trunk

Craigslist is a great place to find antique steamer trunks. If you see a trunk that you really like but it is overpriced just wait them out and watch for the price to drop. Many people greatly over estimate the value of their trunk. Most steamer trunks can be purchased for less than 100 dollars. eBay also has many listings but the down side is that shipping costs can inflate the price. Antique stores also have much higher prices and many store associates will try and sell you a story along with the trunk. Unless there is real documented evidence that the antique steamer trunk belonged to a president or historical figure then it is simply just a worthless story.

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Antique Steamer Trunk Restoration & Information

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How To Restore an Antique Trunk – A Do It Yourself Guide

How To Replace Trunk Handles (Video) – Easy to follow video about handle replacement

How to Clean Out The Inside Of A Trunk (Video) – How to remove paper and refinish the inside of your trunk

Before and After Pictures of Antique Trunks – Take a look at our work

Values of Antique Steamer Trunks – Find out what your trunk is worth![/su_box]

By | 2017-08-28T07:39:17-06:00 December 31st, 2014|Everything About Antique Trunks|2,331 Comments

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