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TODAY IF YOU SEE a photogenic young women with a hat box of shiny black looped over her arm as she walks down a busy street, it's a safe guess that she is a professional model hurrying from one appointment to another. A hundred years and more ago, before Daguerre had invented the first form of the camera, such feminine hand luggage was more colorful and decorative.
Whether in the form of a capacious bandbox or a miniature trunk, the covering was bright-colored wallpaper. Largely imported from England and France, it came in sheets ten by nineteen inches. The designs reflected the life of the time. Some showed sporting prints, others, American views, such as a balloon ascension at Sandy Hook or the Battery, New York. The newly invented steamboat and railway engine were also pictorial subjects.
Most of these old bandboxes still in existence date from about 1825 to just before the Civil War. They were made in three sizes and were oval in shape. The large size measured twenty-four by eighten inches, the medium twenty by sixteen inches, and the small size eighteen by fourteen inches. Top and bottom were usually of thin wood and the sides of cardboard. Some were entirely of cardboard. They were lined either with plain white paper or newspaper. The latter, being cheaper, was widely used and serves today for dating a box so lined.
Bandboxes were made and sold by firms in several cities-New York, Philadelphia, York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Hartford, Connecticut. The bandbox in Illustration 128 was made in the latter city about 1834. The patriotic design is in red, white, and blue with the American eagle standing on a box lettered "Hartford, Conn.," and the ribbon in its mouth is inscribed with the name of the makers, "Putnam and Roff. Paper Hanging & Band Box Mlanufac."
This form of feminine luggage was apparently more popular in America than the small trunks which enjoyed considerable favor in England. None of the trunks date much later than 1830 and are consequently rarer.
How much care was taken in applying the paper to make the most of its hand-blocked and hand-colored design in green and old rose can be seen on the front. Here the pattern continues without a break over the curved top. The shape is very old. With its curved top, it follows the lines of much larger wooden chests made in Europe as early as the fifteenth century. It is also a forerunner of that American institution, the Saratoga trunk of the 1870's. The body of this little trunk is basswood with dovetailed corners. The lid is attached with a pair of wire snipe hinges and there are leather straps at the sides to keep it vertical when raised.