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The classic flat top trunks with canvas or metal background and hardwood staves were made from about the 1870s to around 1920. Many manufacturers around the world put them out in vast numbers.
Their basic shape and design is a rectangular box covered in varying thickness of canvas (some is so thick it could be called burlap) or sheet metal and then hardwood staves, metal trim and hardware added.
Flat trunks have been around much longer than this period, the very earliest chests of Egyptian design were flat and many stagecoach trunks were also flat.
Many other trunk designs were popular during the flat top's days.
These include newspapers, trunk maker's catalogs, letterhead and invoices, business cards, books, articles, and of course trunk labels and trunks.
On the Research page I am offering copies of several of these interesting and unique items for sale.
To determine age, consider the form and function, tool marks, construction techniques, and materials used in the furniture. Pit saws, used from roughly the 1600s to 1750, left irregular, slanted, deep rough marks.
Looking at the bottom or back of a piece, or inside its doors and drawers, can provide important clues about whether or not a piece of old furniture was machine cut or crafted by hand.
Trunks were made in a large variety of shapes and sizes and from many materials and date back to pre-medieval times.
Here is a very brief summary of a few of the trunk styles made in the United States from the late 1700's.
Most handmade pieces will show some irregularities to the surface such as minor nicks indicative of a hand plane being used to smooth out the wood, and this is sometimes even more evident on the back than on the finished front surfaces.
Most machine made pieces date after 1860, according to art historian Lori Verderame (also known as Dr.
By the early 1800s the hide covered trunks continued and became a little more ornamented with handmade brass tacks, forged iron locks and handles and leather trim.