A trunk is an adaptation of the Antiquity and Middle age chest. Lighter and cheaper, their production number increases with the development of transportation means by the middle of the XIXth century. Via road, sea, rail and later on by air, traveling becomes easier and attracts a leisure seeking wealthy middle class.
To accommodate this new market, saddle makers companies diversify their activities with luggage making and leather goods to be used while traveling. Some of the most well known contemporary ones were born then, like Hermes in 1837 or Vuitton in 1854.
From the beginning of the XXth century to the first world war, trunks’ production is at its peak. After the war, it decreases to the benefit of smaller, more easily carried luggages. High end and luxury production remains as well as specific productions like metallic canteens or wicker trunks.
A trunk, or a steamer trunk for that matter, is created as a traveling piece. Therefore, it has to be a light but sturdy structure. Types of wood used are mainly light lumber wood like pine, poplar or some fruit trees. Trunks are reinforced by net of cooper wood staves and iron fittings to protect corners and edges. Trunk engineering with the little movement it allows between pieces creates a slightly deformable object : this particular structure allows blows absorption from the sides and falls on hard surfaces without breakage.
Shapes and decors can vary depending on their production sites : trunk makers create pieces for a demanding clientèle, multiplying ornaments (literally called « jewelries ») to make them stand out. Luxury productions are easily sorted out but for the most part, trunks are affordable pieces, with cheaper wood and little to none ornaments.
Trunks have an outer lining made of materials from burlap to leather repoussé. This lining protects the wooden structure, masks slots from deformed wood and add hygrometric protection for the luggage.
When present, the inner lining adds a finishing touch and protects transported items and users from splinters. Ranging from paper to fabric, with very rare occurrences of leather, everyone can find a style that suits both their taste and budget.