On the Water

Wardrobe Trunk

Promoting itself as “the Aristocrat of Luggage,” the Mendel-Drucker Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, manufactured this sturdy metal wardrobe trunk in the early 1930s for what it called the “class market.” Unlike traditional sea chests and footlockers, wardrobe trunks stood upright and opened vertically, permitting easy access to its contents. This trunk features an enclosed compartment for clothing on hangers, as well as several drawers for shoes, accessories, and folded items. It was also made with special gaskets, interior dust curtains, and sturdy bolts and locks to protect the owner’s expensive garments from moisture, soot, and theft.

Max Isenbergh, a prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer, law professor, and patron of the arts, used this trunk for his extensive travels around the United States and across the Atlantic to Europe between 1934 and about 1960. The trunk bears several stickers from steamship and railroad companies. The outermost layer of stickers and its surviving tag document the trunk’s use on a November 1956 eastbound sailing of the SS United States. On this voyage, Isenbergh, his wife Pearl, and their three children relocated to Paris, where he was starting a new appointment as a special assistant for atomic energy at the American embassy. The family traveled in first class and brought this trunk and about two dozen other pieces of luggage for their stay in Paris, which lasted until 1961.

ID Number:
Mendel Trunx
wood, metal, paper
ca. 1930
41.3386 x 22.8346 x 22.8346 in.; 105 x 58 x 58 cm

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