19th century seaman's chest

valmont325November 18, 2012

Just got this trunk, would love any info on it.

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valmont325

Inside any meaning behind 2 stars with an anchor? Also cant make out the writing

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 4:22PM
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cyn427

The insignia is similar to that of a Master Chief Petty Officer's, but the stars are usually higher above the fouled anchor and USN appears where your crossbar is.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 5:11PM
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lindac

What does the front say? And those 'stamps" inside the lid?
From what I have seen so far, I would call it an "immigrant's trunk" and not earlier than 1900. Doesn't appear to have dovetailed construction. I can't tell if the metal work is hand wrought and if that is metal or leather on the corners.
How big is it?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 5:47PM
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valmont325

Well its definitely 19th Century, so it is earlier then 1900. It is Hand Wrought. No leather. Not Dovetailed but Nails on most but noticed the bottom is wood peg.

Measures 26 1/4" W 16 1/4" D 14 14 1/2" H

illegibly on front "JW Olsson Nort Amerika Schenektady"

No i didnt spell it wrong...thats how its spelt so i wasnt sure if that is significant.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:52PM
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lindac

Very significant.....tells me it's likely an immigrant's or bride's chest....and likely from someone coming from Sweden or Norway...possibly Denmark...I'm not up on the Scandanavian surnames.
It's small...I see no wooden pegs. How do you know it's 19th century? Can you see any saw marks?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:31PM
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valmont325

small wood pegs are on the bottom boards. I won it at an auction,i trust this auction house and they say 19th century seaman's chest. Also inside the chest there are 2 postage stamps. These stamps are "The Landing of Columbus" 2 cent stamps from 1893.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:44PM
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lindac

Why would 2 cancelled postage stamps be on the inside of the chest?
Can you show pictures of the pegs?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:54PM
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valmont325

here is a closeup of a brass tag on the front

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:00AM
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valmont325

ha..good call on the stamps never thought of that. The chest is at my work and im at home right now. So i will have to take photos tomorrow of the pegs.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:05AM
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valmont325

Inside any meaning behind 2 stars with an anchor? Also cant make out the writing

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:20AM
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lindac

Why does the brass tag have a different name than the front painted on name? Hmmm...
When you look at again...look for saw marks...particularly on the bottom.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:21AM
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calliope

The size does not surprise me, it's typical size for a sea chest (nautical equivalent of an Army foot locker). The name on the brass tag doesn't match the name on the inside writing across the lid of the chest, btw. However, all are Swedish. Not surprising, either. There have always been clumps of certain ethnic groups when they come to America. Sea chests are smaller than foot lockers because of the very limited space available in crew's quarters or steerage, or most staterooms btw. That's why this piece is not fancy, it's not a steamer trunk it's just a functional piece and built as cheaply and simply as possible. Don't expect anthing like fancy brass edging along the corners, dove tails or even finishes. I hve my father's foot lockers he had accumulated over the years and some of which were in hold baggage on ships. On the outside is his name, and other pertinent identifiers. I use them for storage now, and even painted and padded some for seats. Linda is not too far off in her dating, if the stamps are any indication.

Schnectady was a port city, btw on the Mohawk river, a tributary of the Hudson. The Hudson being deep enough to be a major international marine port. Cargo moving on river routes were still an important transportation route for goods even when I was a child. I remember coal barges well.

When we think marine traffic, we might also consider that there were dynamic and large forces of civilians whose occupation was civilian in nature, mercantile.

How this plays into your chest.........well you may not find out much more about it, but there is some sort of story involved in its history. The designs inside an enigma. Looks painted by the owner of the chest and who knows what they meant to him. I can't find any exact matches to the insignia and it could have just been conjured up because it meant something (even if incorrectly) to the person who drew it.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:20AM
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lazy_gardens

The brass plate indicates that "Jack" had a license ... but with what country?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Licensed_mariner

You might get luck looking at immigrant lists and ship's registers for those names. Ships crew arrivals were handled differently than passengers.

I have a similar sized chest, but with a spiffy India ink pirate on it, and a different lid. Mine opens without requiring any space behind it for lid clearance.

It was used on the Pacific shipping runs by one of my distant cousins.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:54PM
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valmont325

Well i was talking with someone who knows a bit about stuff and apparently the YW means its from a Water Barge and the "Olsson " was the name of the said Barge.

Here is the photo of the "Pegs" and bottom of chest.

Ps. I look and it is Dovetailed on the sides.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 2:46PM
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calliope

I don't see any indication of a dove tail. The peg joinery is still in use today. Good deal on the J. Olsen being a boat's name. You should verify that, there are sources. My g'grandfather was a riverboat man and the history of the barges and packets plying our waterways here is abundant. That makes some sense of the city being imprinted on the outside of the chest....since Schenectady was in inland fresh water port, like I said.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:46PM
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cyn427

Could be a connection to the Erie Canal.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 7:19PM
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valmont325

Isnt this dovetailed ?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:24PM
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jemdandy

Those dovetails are crude and appears to have been made with a hand-saw and chisel. The wide spacing indicates the builder wanted to spend minimum time to custom fit the dovetails, and made only enough to fit-up the structure.

The Erie canal sysyem ran across New York state and did eventually reach Lake Erie, but was soon put out of business by railroads. The canals froze in winter, and some sections were drained of water in winter.

There was very little room on board a canal boat for personal belongings, in fact, more space was alotted to the draft animals than for the boat operator. Some of the canal boats carried a spare tow animal aboard. On a long haul, the tow animals were changed periodically (one animal on the tow path with one animal resting aboard). A tow operator might go one way for 10 to 20 miles, and then, stay ovenight at a canal station. The next day, he would make the return trip to his starting point.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:54AM
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valmont325

Thanks everyone. Next step is trying to get info from the auction house on who was selling it and then finding out where they had got it. It would be amazing to have concrete info to go along with this. Wouldnt it be amazing if someone had a photo of the original owner with the trunk. But even if i dont get these things its still a part of history. Any value on this? I have seen worse looking ones go for at least $100.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:13AM
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lazypup

Someone mentioned that the "YW" indicated it was a water barg. That may very well be true.

Under International Meritime Law and vessel that is unattended while underway is a derelict, and can be boarded and seized as a salvage vessel. Underway is defined as any vessel that is not anchored or tied to a dock so technically speaking, in the early days of tug boats pulling barges on a tow cable, the barge itself was an unattended vessel underway. To meet the letter of the law and prevent ppl from boarding the barge while it was being towed and declaring salvage rights they had a small shack on every barge and they had a "Barge Captain" that remained on the barge while underway. When in port the Barge captain was responsible for supervising how the cargo was loaded and secured, and insuring any and all deck or cargo hold hatches were properly closed and sealed.

Sometime around 1920 the maritime law was revised, stating that when a barge was connected to a tug boat by means of tow cable it was an extension of the tug boat, under the command of the tug boat captain and the barge captains were no longer required.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:48PM
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jemdandy

The ensign for United States yatchs and power squadrons use a fouled anchor encircled by 13 stars. However, the anchor for these designations is tipped, the top of the anchor tipped to the left. The shape of the anchor with snaring rope is identical to the one on your chest.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 3:58AM
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sombreuil_mongrel

The dovetail spacing is exactly as it should be. It is only with the advent of machine-cut dovetails that they look more like a box joint(equal amounts of pins and tails).
With first-growth timber, the stability and strength was inherent.
Maybe jemdandy would like to show us examples of (his/her) dovetail work.
Casey

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 9:27AM
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valmont325

Do you guys think this has $ value? Say in a vintage / antique shop?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 7:23PM
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valmont325

Do you guys think this has $ value? Say in a vintage / antique shop?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 7:27PM
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valmont325

Do you guys think this has $ value? Say in a vintage / antique shop?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 7:31PM
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valmont325

sorry for multi post

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 12:36AM
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jemdandy

"The dovetail spacing is exactly as it should be." That was my point. The style and apparent hand cut construction (of the dovetails) is another indicator of its age. I can see the end of the saw cuts on one of the dovetails, and I hazard a guess that it was cut with a miter saw; The kerf is very narrow. These dovetails are close fitting for handcuts, an indicator of care that was applied.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 2:54AM
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valmont325

Sounding good so far

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 7:23PM
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jemdandy

A similar spelling, Amerikay, was used in a 19th century Irish song/ballad about an Irishman imigrating to the shores of Amerikay (pronounced as spelled) to seek a home for his true love. He laments that he may never get back to his homeland, Ireland.

The song: "The Shores of Amerikay"

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 3:04AM
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