Pack Up Your Troubles: Antique Trunks and Luggage

Georgian tooled leather trunk, circa 1760, bearing the label Edward Smith

Georgian tooled leather trunk, circa 1760, bearing the label Edward Smith

With economic woes, many of us are opting for a staycation instead of a vacation, which, if you actually remember recent attempts at travel, might start to seem like a good idea.  Modern travel is an ordeal – long lines, TSA regulations, overbooked flights, but historically, travel was, well, no day at the beach either!  Traveling was a filthy, dirty endeavor – coal soot, mud, and dust were everywhere, highwaymen posed a constant threat, and then there was the luggage!

Of course, if you were fortunate enough to travel with a Louis Vuitton turn-of-the-century trunk like this one, you probably didn’t have to hoist it aboard yourself, but still, some unfortunate porter had to haul them around.  Even beautiful tack-decorated examples like the one pictured above, from the George III-era had to weigh a ton, and there’s little hope of getting ballgowns, wigs and petticoats in this tiny salesman’s sampleSea chests at least have rope handles on the ends for dragging them up and down the plank, although that’s probably little compensation for the other joys of a 19th-century sea voyage.  No, at the end of the day, travel is, in many ways, much easier, or at least much cleaner, but it’s still nice to imagine shoving one of these trunks over to a pushy baggage screener and walking off!

-Hollie Davis, Senior Editor,

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