A piece of the 19th century
25 th July 2010
I recently stumbled upon a shop called ”American Barn Company” who specialize in demolishing barns and restoring old wood, furniture, and other antiques they find inside. What caught my eye in their storefront was this very rustic looking domed top steamer trunk. I’ve always been intrigued by the authentic “treasure chest” style of old trunks, and this is a perfect example. I went inside and chatted with the owner about the chest, and apparently it has some history behind it.
The inner lid has an old paper photograph of “The Plankinton Hotel” in Milwaukee. In the lower left corner it says “Binner Eng Co.” which was an engraving company in the later 1800s. The Plankinton Hotel was demolished in 1915, so the trunk must be at least that old.
The locks have a patent date embossed on them reading “PAT JUL 9 72” which I have found to be a patent from 1872. Further research told me the trunk was most likely created by the “Romadka Bros” trunk company sometime around 1890! An interesting fact about the patent is that apparently Anthony Romadka was sued in 1892 for infringing on said patent, however the case was reversed when that patent from 1872 was found to be void due to it encompassing four separate concepts. I’m not clear on the details though, it’s hard to decipher all the law babble.
Besides the significance of the age, the guy I bought the trunk from told me this particular trunk was also featured on a TV show. I didn’t quite catch the name, but I believe it was something along the lines of “Trunk Junkies.” I haven’t spent much time looking into that though.
I paid $75 for this which I think is a steal! I looked up fully restored Romadka trunks and have found some to be selling for over $500. The trunk is fairly dirty and has some surface rust, but is in surprisingly good shape structurally. It looks aged but still feels very solid! I have no plans to restore it at this point, besides wiping it down and maybe replacing the missing leather handles. The latches seem jammed, or maybe they are just locked and I don’t have a key.
The top has some gator skin styled tin embossing, and all the clasps are very ornate and have a distinct hand made quality. The inside appears to have accommodation for a removable tray, so it’s possible that the trunk was part of Romadka’s line of “Ready Access Trunk” line.
Some people might ask why I would even bother buying a piece of junk that will just take up space, but the age is exactly why I like it. There is something interesting about a big heavy trunk that looks like it could of come off of a pirate ship or out of a castle. Perhaps it’s the mystery of it’s history and what could of been stored inside it. Obviously this one isn’t quite that old, but it has the same feeling.