Made to Last: Hartmann Gibraltarized Wardrobe Trunk

An impromptu visit to Mom turned into a treasure hunt around local vintage haunts. My keen eye and interest for well-constructed and interesting pieces was cultivated from a young age by parents who took no care in dragging their offspring to auctions, boot sales, and bazaars. Perhaps this is why I feel perfectly comfortable navigating arcades, aisles, and rooms filled with dusty artifacts. But it was on one unseasonably warm February afternoon in Southern California that I happened to walk into one of the largest and most exciting finds I’ve had yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that I have found a prime example of a Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Wardrobe Trunk from the 1920s like the one pictured in this trade book from 1922. Thanks to Google Books and their grand digitization efforts, I’ve been able to track down a handful of advertisements featured in periodicals. Such gems include:

The trunk I happened to stumble upon is a great example of a personalized trunk that could have been a gift for a graduation, birthday, or wedding. The exterior has the initials E.R. stamped in red. Though the original Yale lock is still intact, the keyhole was busted open some time ago.

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Trunk

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Trunk

 

The Yale lock bar for the interior drawers, pant hangers, shirt hangers, laundry bag, and shoe box are all in accompaniment.

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Wardrobe Trunk  interior

Hartmann Gibraltarized Panama Wardrobe Trunk interior

The trunk has seen some light wear in its 95 years. The rusting bolts, hinges, and corner brackets only add to its overall charm. Though the trunk is in overall decent repair, it is missing one drawer; and the H and A in the Hartmann cross logo on the side of the trunk have since flaked off due to handling. The rest of the label is cracked and barely adhered. I bet a kitten’s sneeze could dislodge it.

I’m in the process of rearranging my home office/bar (because, priorities) and eager to transform this well-maintained wardrobe trunk into an office supply organizer. Perhaps one day it’ll serve its duty during a move, but for now I’ll be perfectly content displaying this unique find while also having a non-traditional spot to stash stationary and stuff.

Have you found an interesting piece of luggage or a trunk and repurposed it in your home? I’d love to find out what other creative, vintage enthusiasts are doing with their wardrobe trunks. Please comment below or Tweet!

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When Neglected Bookshelves Reveal Treasures

Well-read homes require more time to pore over shelves, nooks, and crannies. This home in the foothills had an old book collection tucked away in a slim closet. At first it was the stack of old law books that caught my eye, but then I found it peculiar that all these giant books were on top of a modestly sized leather bound text with engraved details. I had to remove the large volumes in batches in order to retrieve the gem, and it turned out to be totally worth it.

As someone that enjoys learning about local history, I was thrilled to find a textbook that once belonged to a student of Washington & Jefferson college in 1875. This volume of Willson’s Outlines of History is in decent shape. The edges of the spine’s leather binding are worn and the bottom is a little flaky, but the pages are in excellent condition. There are 12 hand painted maps in the textbook. TWELVE! Its an incredible time capsule.

Willson's Outlines of History, 1875

Willson’s Outlines of History, 1875

2014-03-22 15.01.59

A student of Washington & Jefferson College.

I don’t know why I was so drawn to the small book on the very bottom of a stack, but I’m glad that I took the time to dig it out. Now to research how best to preserve a book from the 19th century!

Pro Tip: Always check the garage

Garages get a bad rap. Between the spiders, the weird smells, and their generally unkempt nature, some folks that visit estate sales don’t even step foot into garages. But if you’re a treasure hunter like me, you know that there’s no more unexpected of a place to find a cool collectible than a garage.

While I was at work one Friday afternoon, the mister decided to take advantage of his day off and visit an estate sale in Eagle Rock. I had forwarded the description of the sale to him and he found the mention of vintage tools very enticing. So off he went with $20 in his pocket. The afternoon goes by rather quietly until I receive a text message that declares that I will soil myself upon setting eyes on his discovery. Alright, mister. I am officially intrigued.

I’m thankful for the warning because I almost lost it when I saw what was in the middle of our bedroom. A steamer trunk from the late 19th century!

Steamer trunk by A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Steamer trunk by A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Look at that label! A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Look at that label! A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

This could possibly be one of the coolest coffee tables ever as there are four canvas-lined wooden shelves that go inside of the trunk. The metal hardware is spectacular. We’re missing the key though, so some sleuthing will need to be done. The entire trunk is reinforced with wood slats and the corners have a metal wrap. From the looks of things, this trunk was made for the rough & tumble stagecoach rides.

The exterior has the general wear & tear one would expect for a travel trunk that has survived for around 125 years. The lid has a couple of drops of (presumably) white paint, which I imagine came from the years it spent tucked away in a garage. I can’t help but wonder if the owner of the house had family that came to California from Colorado decades after the Gold Rush. Oh, if only that trunk could talk!

If it weren’t for the mister’s eagle eye and the brilliant timing we wouldn’t have found this timeless piece of Americana. I can’t wait to have this as the centerpiece of our living room once we’ve dusted off the exterior & figured out a table top solution.

The more I think of it, the more I wonder if a slab of acrylic with rounded edges is the way to go. We definitely don’t want to harm the surface by adhering a permanent bond to to it. If anyone has any tips or recs on how to convert a steamer trunk into a coffee table, please leave a comment below!