Sometimes you just need a break from the office. Monday, I headed into town because Charley Tango was a hair overdue for an oil change. The perks of my oil change spot is that it’s located right down from a nice little thrift shop. After dropping Charley off to John (the best mechanic ever by the way!), I strolled down the street to the thrift shop. I was pleased to see one of my friends working there. He’s been struggling a little bit lately to find a job that doesn’t have alcohol around. He’s a recovering alcoholic and work in our town that doesn’t involve alcohol is scarce. I chatted with him for a few minutes and was pleased to learn that he absolutely loves working there. As I rummaged around the store, I was excited to see people talking and interacting with him. He’s a bit quiet and I am glad to see he’s making friends who will be a good influence on him. I perused through the books and found some lovely ones. I only had a little bit of cash with me so I knew I would have to make some choices. I ended up getting a fabulous deal as I was informed they were on a 5 for $1 special! I worked my way around the store and saw a trunk sticking out from under the rack. I pulled it out expecting it to be an old suitcase and boy was I ever surprised!
There nestled amongst the suitcases was a vintage Conrad Becker steamer trunk. For those of you who might not be as nerdy as I am let me tell you about one of my favorite trunk makers. The year was 1881 and nestled in No. 537 5th Street in Washington, D.C. was a saddle, harness, satchels and trunk maker by the name of Conrad Becker. Conrad would go on to work with some of the biggest name in leather work during his illustrious career making trunks well into the 1920s. Beckers (his company) continued making items into the 1980s.
I often wonder what stories old trunks have to tell…where have they been? who’s life have they lived with them? I noticed my new trunk had a travel sticker on it. I nestled onto my couch and set about finding out what story it had to tell.
The travel sticker I discovered was North German Lloyd which was known as Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL). It was a German shipping company founded by Hermann Henrich Meier and Eduard Crüsemann in Bremen on February 20, 1857. It developed into one of the most important German shipping companies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was instrumental in the economic development of Bremen and Bremerhaven. On September 1, 1970, the company merged with Hamburg America Line (HAPAG) to form Hapag-Lloyd AG. So I wondered..did it travel to Germany? Was it in the belly of a great ship? Oh the stories and places it must have seen :)
The NDL would operate through both World War I and World War II. At the peak of its existence, the NDL was owner of 9,000 fleet ships. It would move from being a civilian ship company to a company of war ships. The NDL would expand a line to the West Indies and South America and even incorporate a tug services at the end of the 1800s. In 1897, with the commissioning of SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Große, the NDL finally had a major ship for the North Atlantic. This was the largest and fastest ship in the world, and the company benefited from the reputation advantage of the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing, with an average speed of 22.3 knots. Between 1897 and 1907, the line followed with three further four-screw and four-funnel steamers of the Kaiser class, of 14,000–19,000 GT: the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II and the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie. With these the company offered a regular service across the Atlantic to its docks at Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York. The NDL would later become an acquisition of the great J.P. Morgan (remember him from history class?).
I’ll stop boring you with my history lesson now :) Underneath the handle, there are three initials embossed onto the trunk in silver – WCW. Who was he I wonder? Was he a traveling salesman? Someone’s grandfather? A soldier? A veteran? A doctor? Was he American? German? British? Oh the stories my brain imagines when I look at this trunk. Will I ever discover the answer? Probably not..but it will be fun trying!
Never thought a little trunk could hold such a tale did you? What about you! What vintage items can you not resist at a thrift store? Do you have one that holds special meaning to you?
One Lemon on the search for WCW