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Can anyone tell me anything about this trunk?  It also had numbers painted on the side in Black paint. The women I bought it from said it was her great grandmothers and had been told it belonged to a civil war soldier, but I thought that era trunks were more canvas lined because they needed the metal for war? The metal is magnetic so not zinc. 


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could have been owned by a civil war soldier after the war some where around 1880s


If you Image search   Antique Civil War Trunk - #449

There are some similar, but I did not find any metal

If you search Antique metal sided barrel top Trunk - #449

There are some here with metal side

Just poking around gotta run.. will return to the hunt later.. GL

Unlikely to be from the civil war, and impossible to prove without documentation. More likely to be late 19th to early 20th century. Good info about trunks here (click the links too):

Some old trunks have the manufacturer's name on the latches or locks. Your trunk is called a "Steamer trunk". The rounded top prevents shipping agents from stacking other trunks on top.

My understanding is true steamer trunks were no more then 14" and were flat topped because of limited room on the Steam ships. 

What are the dimensions of your trunk?

There is a great deal of information on Wikipedia about the various styles of trunks used over time, including the steamer trunk.  Just keep in mind the information portrayed there should always be backed up by additional proof.

From everything I've read and according to the dictionary Steamer trunks were made to fit under the bunks of a ship. This is from Collectors Weekly who I feel like are a pretty reputable authority:

"Flat-top trunks, or steamer trunks, were designed to makes these pieces of luggage easier to store on steamboats or trains. What people think of as steamer trunks today were once called “packers”—the even smaller “cabin trunks” or “true steamer trunks” were the most practical pieces for ship or train travel."

This is from the Collins English dictionary:

"a broad, low, rectangular trunk, originally designed to fit under a bunk on shipboard"

This is from who seem to have done a lot of research:

"I too have seen the term "Steamer" used incorrectly.  About half of all people call any trunk a steamer trunk. Many times people will call a wardrobe trunk a steamer. However, a true steamer trunk is a low profile trunk, no more than about 14" high, but can be small or large in length. The size requirement was one the steamship company's imposed. Some makers also advertised that their trunk would fit under any berth on any ship. Trunks that were brought into your cabin were referred to as "On Voyage". Here is a quote from the R.M.S. Aquitania,
"Baggage wanted on the voyage must be limited in size to 14 inches in height, 2 feet in width; and 3 feet 8 inches in length."
The word Steamer is one of the most misused trunk descriptions."

Are there other resources I should be looking at?



Steamer trunks were also used on trains, coaches and buggies and motor vehicles. As I stated the rounded tops prevented agents from stacking other freight on top. I've never seen a 14 inch steamer trunk...

Here's one:

Here's another:

There are many examples of trunks listed as Steamer Trunks, many of which do not conform to the 14 inch height, nor a flat or curved top. Some are called Flat-tops for the exact reason they are not curved, yet are still classified as Steamer Trunks, whether accurately or not, it just makes website searches a little trickier when people list their items online, using a generic term, rather than the style specific term.

Normally a dimension shown as 14" would mean the length, but since you, Tonya, didn't clarify that is what I thought.  Length X Width X Height, which is why I said I've never seen a 14" (long) trunk.

Tonya, all that new info concerns flat-topped trunks HOWEVER your trunk is a rounded top.  Apples to apples.

There are, according to the article (link), many different names for round top trunks. "Monitor top" is the most common.

Dating your trunk is also discussed. For instance, metal latches, locks and hinges were first used in 1872. This rules out it being used during the Civil War (1861-65).

Funny, my mind went straight to height whereas yours went to the trunks length, but you are correct we should have stated which dimension axis we were referring to.

Excellent website for trunk information by the way.


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