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Renaissance Marie Austin "My Story"

            My name is Renaissance Marie Austin and I have finally built up the courage to tell my story. But first, let me lay the groundwo...

For Sale | I Am Parting Ways with this Antique Steamer Trunk, but first the Story of Ms. Josephine Holloway

This true story begins with Ms. Josephine Holloway. By the time my family moved next door to her, she already seemed elderly in my 6 year old eyes. Because my father was a single father, and adamant about me spending time with upright female figures within our community, I began a journey with Ms Josephine Holloway, that started with the patter of my little feet exiting the front door of my home, crossing our driveway, and entering the side door of her home, which led to a small dimly lit kitchen. She treated me with orange marmalade pie and sometimes fried chicken. No matter the treat, I listened to her talk about life for hours. 

Her home was always clean and untouched, reflective of the early 1970’s. While I do not remember much of our conversations, I will never forget the years of crossing the driveway into her home, morphing from a little girl, into a teenager, then young lady. As a busy adult our correspondence turned into “hellos”, through her side kitchen window, which faced our driveway. Whenever we pulled up in a car, and she was clinking dishes around in her kitchen, we would sing, “Yooo, Hooo!”, and she would come right to the window to greet us. My father had a tradition of purchasing pretty brown bottles of Brandy for Ms. Holloway every Christmas. After his passing, I continued that tradition for some time. When she began forgetting who people were, I delivered the bottles of Brandy to her son Walter. When her condition progressed, Walter eventually moved in to take care of her. This was very difficult for him. He could not believe that the woman who birthed him could no longer remember who he was. We all watched him go through emotional stress taking care of Ms. Josephine.

Early one morning when the rain was just starting to fall, through my front window I caught Walter frustratingly dragging a vintage trunk out of his home and placing it on the curb. Because I watched The Antiques Roadshow regularly, I knew that the trunk possibly may have been of value. But also, I loved vintage items. I told him to bring the trunk over to my porch so that I could have it. He brought it over and said, “Here, it’s yours”. From there the trunk became the love of my life. I have had the trunk for almost 20 years and have used it vertically and horizontally as a magazine table. This trunk traveled with me to every city I lived in, my office, and boutique. It has added character to every space I have utilized.

This research project has been a great and fun learning experience. I tell you, I’m nerdy and fell down the rabbit hole of trunk land. So far down, I had to stop myself. When I initially received the trunk, the obvious was present. Upon examination I saw that it was an R.H. Macy’s & Co. Trunk. There was a shipping sticker on the trunk with the name of Edward E. Gurian & Co. The trunk had been shipped to an Alvarado address in Los Angeles. This information was all I understood about the trunk at the time. Now that I am praying for a good home for it, my deep dive has brought an interesting history connected to this trunk. Let’s get into it.

When I started researching, I realized there were some things I overlooked. I went back to my storage and examined the trunk a little closer. I could not believe that I never realized how important the locks and brass fixtures were. When I zoomed in, I saw an engraving on the main lock that read Everlasting Lock Co. D60. I learned that the number on the lock is the matching number on the key to the lock. While I do not have a key and the lock is not functional, a quick Google search landed me on an Ebay listing that had the exact numbered key that would potentially open my lock. Unfortunately, the most difficult part was me trying to find ample information about Everlasting Lock Co., which seems to be non-existent. I found that Everlasting Lock Co. was mostly attached to a Long or Atkinson & Long Trunk and Lock Manufacturing Company. Most vintage key and lock listings I found read either Atkinson & Long Everlasting Lock Co. or Everlasting & Long Lock Co, or Everlasting Atkinson & Long Manufacturing & Lock Co. I know. It’s so much right? Well, let’s break it down.

If I were to use the information I have and my intuition, it seems to me that it all began with the oldest company, Everlasting Lock Co. A small data find states that Everlasting Lock Co. was one of the top lock manufacturers of the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two inventors, Wallace E. Atkinson and Allen T. Long, both of Petersburg, VA, the businesses Virginia corporations, and whom I cannot confirm were ever connected to Everlasting Lock Co., seemed to rework this business repeatedly, interchanging the names between Everlasting, Long, Atkinson and Long, eventually becoming the Long Manufacturing Company who finally went out of business in 1995. Quote:

“Here's a lead on the history of the long lock mfg co of Petersburg Va and to the origins of your trunk from a 2015 story in 'The Richmond Times Dispatch'

The factory dates to the early 1900s when it was run by Rogers & Madison Trunk Co., a trunk maker, Jordan said. Long Manufacturing took over in the late 1920s or early 1930s, making trunk locks and keys primarily for the Seward Trunk Co., also in Petersburg and once one of the nation’s largest makers of steamer trunks and luggage.

The buildings for Long Manufacturing have been used for storage since the business shut down in 1995.”

Everlasting seemed to operate under these names up until around 1928 where the name Everlasting was phased out. After 1930, Atkinson & Long Trunk Manufacturing & Lock company continued operating well into the 1940s. From 1928 to 1936, one half of Atkinson & Long, Allen T. Long began filing patent applications for various kinds of locks. From trunk locks, to briefcase locks, foot lockers locks, and more. The rabbit hole gets deeper! Moving into the 1970’s and 80’s, the Atkinson & Long Company allegedly becomes the Long Manufacturing Co. who was then being assigned patents by none other than the other half of Atkinson & Long, Wallace E. Atkinson. It is only an assumption, but it is possible Atkinson may have been getting up in age and ready to back out of the business completely. From the 1950s to the 1970s Atkinson continued to assign nearly all but two of his patents to the Long Manufacturing Co.


This link talks about the Everlasting Lock Co. 1860 - 1900. https://picclick.com/Antique-Flat-Top-Steamer-Trunk-Coffee-Table-Storage-253722002851.html 

This link leads to two antique twin keys that have the same exact engraving of Everlasting Lock as my trunk lock has. These two keys are the only items I have found that are an exact engraving match.

Vintage Pair Of Everlasting Lock Co. T4552 Trunk Keys T4552 Similar To Long Co for Sale - CopBlock.org 

This link contains a full alphabetical list of all key manufacturing companies and their key numbers. Under the E section you will find that certain keys were solely manufactured under Everlasting Lock Co.

Antique Vintage Flat Keys (islandtrunkshop.com)

Let’s discuss Edward E. Gurian and Co., the company printed on the shipping label.They were based out of Chicago, Illinois and manufactured radio parts and car accessories. The company was started by two brothers some time before 1959, Meyer Gurian and Edward Gurian. One of the wives of the brothers helped create the policies for the company. The address the trunk was shipped to was an apartment building on Alvarado Blvd and it is still standing today. I am assuming that the trunk was shipped to Los Angeles for the Pacific Electric Trade Show, a three day event. This event was covered in Western Aviation Magazine, of which Edward E. Gurian & Co. was an exhibitor. The trade show occurred in February of 1962. It would make sense that the trunk came to Los Angeles in 1962 and the apartment on Alvarado is where they may have stayed. However, I cannot confirm this.  Unfortunately, Edward E. Gurian & Co. got into some trouble with the labor unions. This link will send you to a trial that took place between Edward E. Gurian & Co. and The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (August, 1960). I must say, it is a great read.


In 1969, we find another case between the company and an employee, Robert Gertz, who in 1963 entered into an oral employment agreement with Edward E. Gurian & Co. This is a good read as well and can be found here: https://www.casemine.com/judgement/us/591495c8add7b049345d50e6

The easiest find of all is Macy’s Inc. R.H. Macy opened his door in 1858 and soon after moved to Herald Square, NY in 1902. I ran across an R.H. Macy’s & Co. Inc. Herald Square edition trunk which I believe came before the other trunks. The Herald Square versions more than likely were manufactured after 1902 and before 1920. Perhaps these trunks are commemorative of the move. The department store operated as R.H. Macy’s & Co. Inc. for many years until the R.H. was dropped and Macy’s began operating as we know it today. Federated Department Stores was the Macy’s holding company which acquired many department stores that were started across the US in the early 20th century. While the R.H. was dropped it still covertly existed on paper as a corporation until Federated acquired it in 1994. Today, what was Federated department stores is now Macy’s Inc.


Finally, the National Genuine Hard Vulcanized Trunk Fibre label. This trunk emblem was the key determining factor that helped me date the trunk as accurately as possible. This link https://kennettcollaborative.org/stories/the-material-of-a-million-uses-the-history-of-nvf-in-kennett-square/ led me to an amazing blog post specifically about the National Vulcanized Fibre company which officially formed in 1922. It is safe to say I can at least date my trunk to around 1922. To summarize, the National Vulcanized Fibre Company was birthed out of the American Vulcanized Fibre Company, started by the Marshall brothers of the prominent Marshall family of Kennett Township, PA. I also discovered that the red symbol on the label is the most prized keystone symbol of Pennsylvania, better known as the Keystone State.

This link https://history.delaware.gov/2020/11/20/am-fibre-company-listed-in-national-register/ will lead you to information about the old American Vulcanized Fibre Company’s manufacturing site in Delaware before it became the National Vulcanized Fibre company. Overall, the company operated for about 100 years. 

This link will lead you to an amazing report about the National Vulcanized Fibre Company and the history, process, and manufacturing of vulcanized fibre.  https://digital.hagley.org/08040170_history_national_vulcanized#modal-close

My one conflicting thought about the National Vulcanized Fibre Company label and the Everlasting Lock engraving is that the dates do not seem to coincide. It is possible that the lock is older or taken from an older trunk and became the replacement of a broken or missing lock. Perhaps this is why the Everlasting lock does not perfectly snap into the closure and there is no original key. I cannot confirm this information, but it makes sense in my mind. To have an Everlasting Lock engraving with no attachment to Atkinson or Long tells me the lock itself may be older than the trunk.

Currently, I have no way of connecting how the vintage trunk came into the possession of Ms. Holloway. There is no marriage data. Only the address I have always known her to live at. I have never known her to have a husband or man around her house. She lived her life in solitude until her son Walter moved in with her during her bedridden years. A simple Google search showed me that she may still be alive and is 99 years old! I did not find death records or information.  Imagine spending time with an elderly woman from the age of 6 to the time of the passing of my father at age 14 and not really knowing anything about her at all. She never shared anything personal about herself and to this day remains a mystery to me.

Here is a little gem. The first time I ever opened the trunk I discovered an old newspaper with some interesting articles, of which I have misplaced, and this beautiful handmade skirt and jacket. A quick Google lens search indicates the skirt and jacket may be Haitian felt embroidery or a garment of Mexican or Afro-Mexican origin dating around the mid 1960s. I will be contacting the Craft and Folk Art Museum to find out more information about it.

I am now selling this antique R.H. Macy's &  Co. trunk, now 100 years old, for $300 or best offer. The report I have written will be printed and accompany the trunk. Please email me at renaissance.cornela.austin@gmail.com with offers or inquiries.

Thank you for reading!

P.S. I will just leave this one a mystery. Anything look familiar to you? Come on Everlasting... I mean Everlast, what is really going on here? Thoughts?