Whatever happened to …

… steamer trunks?

Thanks to Sheila Stewart and her husband for this suggestion.

My husband and I were discussing if we should keep our old steamer trunk (not sure what happened to mine, but the one we have is his). Then we wondered when/why people stopped travelling with them and then I wondered if you would like it for topic for “whatever happened to…”. I took one on the train for my second year at univ. Was it air travel or the use of suitcases that really changed the use of them? We store stuff in ours now and display pictures on it. Any memories/interest for you?

And, of course, it has memories for this old movie fan.

In the movies, there seemed to be two ways that people travelled. The very poor jumped onto trains as they slowed down or stopped in small communities. If they were taking clothes of things with them, they were put into bags and thrown onto the train as they jumped on board.

The very rich travelled by cruise ship and had their fancy clothes and belongings packed into a “steamer trunk” and typically had two people working for the ship lines who would carry it on board for them.

For the rest of the population (where we probably fall), carrying clothes never seemed to be an issue or something that made it into any movie that I recall.

Inspired by Sheila’s suggestion, I’ll admit that I was quite surprised that they are still a thing and can be purchased. Walmart.com’s collection can be found here. There doesn’t seem to be anything on walmart.ca though.

Zeitblick [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

And, my brother and I actually had one of these. No, we weren’t world travellers. Somehow our family had one and we used it to store our comic books. It never went travelling during our time owning it!

Nowadays, trunks like this – well worn – are the type of things that show up at flea markets or antique shows. I can’t think of where I’d seen them anywhere else. So, Sheila and husband, you might have something that might be of value.

For a Sunday, your thoughts…

  • do you own a steamer trunk?
  • did you own one in your past?
  • was Sheila right? Did airplanes kill the steamer trunk?
  • the modern equivalent would be the suitcase, a common university or wedding gift. They come in sets which always seems like overkill. We had a set of four but only ever used one, maybe two of the cases. Do you own and use a complete set of suitcases?
  • for a long time now, suitcases have come with wheels to make bringing them with you easier. Do you have a suitcase with wheels? Do they change your opinion of escalators?
  • I suspect that those people who still have a steamer trunk use them for purposes other than the original. Do you have one and what do you use it for?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t worry about dating yourself; I certainly did.

Got an idea for a future post? Send it to me. We all have great memories to relive.

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

9 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Doug, I was about to write that I didn’t even know what a steamer trunk is, and then I realized that I currently use one as a bedside table. My parents gave it to me. Thanks for teaching me the name of what I thought was just a “trunk.” (Right now my clock radio is sitting on it, and that could probably be a post of its own. 🙂 )



  2. We’ve got to get you to watch old black and white movies, Aviva. They were really common.

    Glad to see that you’re repurposed yours. Now, the bigger question – is your clock set to the correct time?


  3. Well that question is a complicated one. My alarm clock was purchased at K-Mart numerous years ago. It sets itself. I love that about it! No need to manually adjust it, and it automatically resets when there’s a power outage. Except it’s off by 65 minutes. Always. And I can’t change the time on my own. So I need to adjust my alarm time to 65 minutes later every day. 🙂 Why wouldn’t I just buy a new alarm clock? It’s really hard to find a good clock radio, and I love this one, despite the wrong time. Maybe it makes me think that I’m sleeping in every day. 🙂 #ImComplicated


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Comic books! 🙂 Mostly blankets and wool sweaters in ours, so I guess we are using like a “chest” now. Ours looks similar to the one in the photo you included. The leather handles are quite worn, so it must have travelled somewhere, sometime. When my husband and I met in our university years, we had a good chuckle that our new luggage sets were the same brand and colour. I still have the “carry on”, but it is also very dated. I think I have used most of the sizes of our new set, except the very small “overnight” sized one. Who travels that light? 🙂

    Thanks for turning the ol’ steamer trunk into an interesting topic of conversation! Like Aviva, we usually refer to it as our “trunk”. Hope to read more stories and memories!


  5. So. Steamer trunks.

    We didn’t call them “steamer” trunks when I was a kid, (probably because steamers were no longer a thing) but we did have at least two old, old trunks in the house. I think one of them was in my sister’s room–which doubled as the guestroom–and from my memory the trunk had things like extra bedding and old smelling stuff from a different age. I don’t know if it had lilac or mothballs or something else in it—but whatever it had added a definite “aged” atmosphere to the contents. It would’ve been years later that I learned that trunks were historically lined with cedar and that sometimes faux storage trunks came with a fake cedar smell.

    I think there was also a second trunk in my parent’s bedroom? It may have been at the foot of the bed? Many years later when my father passed away, the trunk was long gone, but he had a collection of keepsakes that we’d never seen that would’ve belonged to my grandfather, so I’m thinking the keepsakes might’ve been stored in that trunk for all those years when we were kids.

    Fast forward to my late teens, and things like “cube trunks“ started showing up in department stores like Towers (long before Target and Walmart). Whatever happened to Towers department store? I actually purchased four 18 inch cube trunks to store my “apparatus” when I was travelling the province in that earlier life. Three of those trunks nestled side by side across the back seat of the 1965 Dodge Dart. I jerryrigged the interiors of each cube trunk with things like foam and plywood and handles to suit the various contents, and in the end salvaged a pair of the closing hasps from the fourth trunk to replace the hinges on the number one trunk so that I would have a completely removable lid. The trunks themselves were made of thin plywood, reinforced with metal banding along all of the twelve edges and metal corners at all eight vertices, with two side handles that made it possible for one person to carry the trunk. However, even an 18 inch wide cube trunk can get heavy for one person, depending on the contents, so if wheelie bags had been readily available then, life would have been a lot easier!

    These days, I have three mismatched wheelie bags, purchased at different times, for different purposes. One is a large bag that I have in the past overpacked for long trips (or used twenty years ago to carry a PC, keyboard, external hard drive, and flat screen monitor) and now typically use to carry all kinds of stuff for the Coding for Everyone! Minds on Media station. The second wheelie bag is carry-on size which I have typically used as a travel bag, and the third wheelie bag is actually a pilot/salesman’s case size that I have used on occasion for carrying/storing teaching resources for conference presentations, etc. Currently, it holds a bunch of Minecraft books. (Wheelie bags and escalators make for a great combination!)

    Circling back to your closing question, I still have that number one, modified, hingeless, four-hasp 18” cube trunk, now holding a collection of keepsakes. That might make for an interesting, reflective question for some Sunday morning: “What’s in your keepsake box?”


  6. I bought one when I was in the service because that was the easiest way to move my personal belongings between bases. I still have it after close to 40 years, although I admit I haven’t opened it in a very long time…


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  9. My husband received one as a university gift from his grandfather. Now it hold trophies, comics, and a few other sentimental items. We have it near the TV in the basement and keep the remote controls on it (in theory… if we can find them. How are these not rechargeable? And why do they not contain a “find” button like cordless phones??)


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