Most trunks before the 1800s were not lined. By the late 1700s and early 1800s newspapers were used to line many trunks. Some newsprint was embellished with decorative dots that were stamped onto the paper with wooden stamps and ink. This gave the impression of a polka dot pattern from a distance. Up close you can usually read the text of the newspaper through the dots. We have one old Captain’s sea chest that is lined in this manner (no, this one is NOT for sale). The newspaper is from London and is dated 1830. One advantage newspaper linings give us today are datelines! The deerskin immigrant’s trunk in our Showroom is lined with newspaper that has a dateline of January 19, 1803! After watching a history program on TV recently I realized that Napoleon was about halfway through his life on that day. A very few early trunks were lined with plain paper that had artwork stenciled onto it.
By the early 1800s paper became more plentiful and available in many colors and patterns. Some paper was just plain solid colors including a lot of very dull grey. As the outsides of trunks started becoming more decorative so did the linings with small floral patterns abounding. All of this paper was much thinner than any wallpaper used to reline antique trunks today. It’s a very rare trunk that has paper good enough to preserve and leave in the trunk.
Some trunks made during the 1800s were lined with tapestry material. These were mostly European trunks. By the latter quarter of the 19th Century some manufacturers started lining trunks with a thin cloth. This became the norm by the end of the century and many wardrobe trunks of the 1920s and 1920s were lined with this type of cloth.
Some flat top trunks around the turn of the century were lined partly with cardboard, usually in the floor and inside the lid. This cardboard added strength to the trunk. The cardboard then was covered either by paper or thin fabric.