Trunk Show! By Adene Lucus, owner of Freyia DEKOR
Growing up, I have distinct memories of furniture. Not birthday parties, nor family vacations but specific pieces of furniture we had in our home. I am sure that warrants some type of therapy or introspection, however one of the key pieces I recall, was my great grandmother’s trunk. We carted it around for years and it took up a lot of space with its large dome lid and torn leather handles. I’ve come to learn that the domed top served a purpose. First it allowed for extra storage, which would have been key when packing all your possessions! The curved top also helped keep rain from pooling, thus preventing water damage to your possessions. Another benefit of a dome shaped trunk was that it could not be stacked. This forced porters to store them at the ends or at the top of the piles of trunks instead of underneath them all, which prevented damaging the trunk. Our trunk had narrow bands of embossed decorative tin that could easily draw blood if running your hands across it. It also smelled musty and everything we stored inside the trunk, had that distinct smell of something old. Trunks were known for being airtight, hence that smell. Again, more fond childhood memories, but I will spare the story of our family sofa made from Styrofoam and covered in brown corduroy. Trunks were very common 150 years ago and were bought in preparation for traveling abroad. The owner of the steamer carefully selected their finest clothing, hats, and other personal belongings and placed them in the trunk with the optimism of a new life ahead.
The steamer was aptly named because of the location of storage in a steam ship, right by the steam engine in both ships and trains. They first appeared in the late 1870s and were eventually replaced by the suitcase when travel became more accessible, and a trunk was simply too large for short trips.
Many countries have a version of a trunk or bridal chest, and Swedish trunks have their own story. Swedish immigrants came to the United States in droves in 1852 for a better life. America had the promise of work, growing industries, cheap land, lower taxes, and higher standards of living compared to Sweden. Most emigrating Swedes came from rural communities, and they arrived with only the trunks they left with. Soon letters and gifts from America came home to relatives in Sweden and this inspired more young Swedes to pack their trunk and make new lives for themselves. Originally the Swedish trunk was used as a bridal chest or brudkista. It was used by a young woman to hold an accumulation of linens that she would bring into her marriage. Swedish engagements were long, some-
times lasting years and during this time, the bride-to-be would weave, sew, and embroider dozens of towels and bed linens. The groom also kept a chest, a brudgumskista, that he would fill with carved plates, mugs, spoons, as well as items related to harvesting flax. When the two married, they would then have the necessities for their new home.
Through the years, a chest may have been used for other storage, such as extra blankets and pillows, and then passed down through from daughter to daughter as a hope chest, or hoppas kista. They were meant to be passed from one generation to the next, just like how my great Grandmother’s trunk ended up in our living room for years.
The Swedish chest was usually made by a member of her family, or a village carpenter and her initials and date of birth would be included in the decoration. The bridal chest was also beautifully decorated with floral designs, sometimes including images of birds and hearts, to symbolize love and prosperity.