Vintage Suitcases and Trunks

 Travellers set of 3. Cargo

Retro Luggage
Euro Suitcases by Cargo
Vintage suitcases have a lovely charm about them, especially the genuine article, which also come with a history and the interesting patina of age. I love the rounded shapes and contrast trims of 50s luggage...but the pseudo-old ones are a good substitute if you don't happen to have any old mid-century baggage lying around.

Road suitcase by Cargo
The cheaper ones make great storage boxes for odds and ends or for decorative purposes and of course the better quality cases can be used as real luggage.

Travelling Light
Light-weight luggage was really a 20th century phenomenon, as prior to WW2, extensive travel used to commonly involve lugging around heavy trunks and chests or metal or wooden-framed suitcases with thick cowhide covers. As at that time, travel was a luxury for the well-to-do, it became vogueish to plaster your luggage with colourful  tourist labels from all the destinations you'd been fortunate enough to  have travelled to.

Early 20th century suitcases were often made out of wool, linen or leather. They were pretty basic - a rectangle with a handle at the top and could be awkward to carry around. The addition of wheels and extended handles made life easier for travellers.

Imax Antique Ivory luggage

Reproduction vintage leather suitcase. Quickway Imports
In the 1930s, American Luggage Works began to make suitcases out of lightweight plywood, which could be bent to create rounded corner. These were not only lighter and more spacious but they had nifty zippered compartments for better organization. Samsonite promoted its hard-shell luggage with the catchphrase "Strong Enough to Stand On."

Post-war, leather covered plywood veneer and all vinyl cases began to appear on the scene. More breakthroughs followed with the invention of the molded plastic suitcases, which were super-light and cheap. When American Luggage Works produced the hard-sided  American Tourister case in 1954, they claimed it was virtually indestructible:
Reproduction vintage wooden cases. Delux
 When the company started to receive reports of American Tourister luggage surviving incredible accidents, Koffler used them in advertisements to promote the luggage's durability. One true-life account reported that an American Tourister suitcase fell off a car traveling 60 miles per hour and was run over by another car. Other than a few scuff marks on the outer surface, the case was undamaged. ~ American Tourister
All Cases available from the Amazon Nostalgia Shop
Hot pink vintage-look luggage set. Dea

Louis Vuitton Lugggage ad circa 1898
Steamer Trunks
Vintage Art Deco Louis Vuitton poster featuring an ocean liner drawn like a steamer trunk

Louis Vuitton steamer trunk
In the pre-war era, before air travel took off, for a big trip people often used to to travel with ultra large trunks such as the leather and wood Louis Vuitton pictured at right and below.

These were like a mini wardrobe,  designed to stand up on one end. They had compartments, hangers and drawers and plenty of room for all the little extras a well-dressed man or woman might require on their travels and of course, there was plenty of cheap labour available to carry them around for the owner.

Although trunks had been used  for travelling for thousands of years, the popular 'steamer trunk' style date from the late 1800s to the early 20th century. Of course when air travel became a viable means of transport these cumbersome travel trunks, which were generally made of wood or other heavy materials were an impossibility. Even before planes,  the production of lighter and cheaper luggage sets were making trunks redundant.
A travelling wardrobe
There were also purpose designed trunks made especially for transporting hats, known as 'ladies trunks', which were popular in the late 18th century. Smaller than conventional trunks and square-shaped, rather than rectangular, they had a handle at the top. Owing to their rarity, they're now highly collectable.

19th century hat trunk


Fabulous 'dome-top' trunks dating from the late 1800s