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Two Minnie's in The Hell's Half Acre, The Republic of Texas
2130 Posts

Profile of RCP
A recent estate sales dusty attic has provided me with this gem.
Theatrical trunks are fairly rare and I have been searching for some time. The one I found is identical to the one in the link. I plan to use this as the center point of a one man show. As I restore it I shall add a few helpful werks……
Do I restore it to its original glory? This trunk was covered with painted canvas? The wood underneath would stain beautifully! While not original to this type of trunk I am considering stamped tin and leather on the exterior?
I would appreciate the creative suggestions from each of you. Original or jazz it up? What else would you add?

Thanks in advance
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Senseless gibberish that amounts to
2613 Posts

Profile of afinemesh

I'm a big fan of original, and this is quite the piece! Why "jazz" it up? I guess that depends on the theme of your show.
As far as just ideas go, you could go the stickers of destinations all over it (with some possible pertinent information on some of them), or you could do the tin leather thing you suggested! I would leave it original, but again it depends on what direction your show is going in.

Great find and keep us posted!!

"I've always been mental, I'm sure of it" Boris Pocus Smile

"Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny". . .Bruce Springsteen
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Tied & Untied Witches on
5316 Posts

Profile of Godzilla
Nice score,RCP!

I would keep her original,as you can!
Of course,you may add your something specials,to the trunk! I'm sure it will only be of secrets,known to you! Smile

Show us a peek, when finished!
"If you watch Godzilla backwards, it's about a big ass lizard who helps rebuild a half burnt-down city, then moonwalks back into the ocean"
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50 Posts

Profile of Warren-Peace
The original is what I would go with, but as mentioned what kind of one man show? Bizarre, you could go with aged tin, stressed wood etc. If it's children oriented, you may go with a colorful theme. Either way it is a beautiful piece.
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The Beautiful State Of Maine
6724 Posts

Profile of Dougini
On 2012-10-28 18:27, afinemesh wrote:
...As far as just ideas go, you could go the stickers of destinations all over it (with some possible pertinent information on some of them)...

I'm with Jorey on this one! Great idea! Smile

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Two Minnie's in The Hell's Half Acre, The Republic of Texas
2130 Posts

Profile of RCP
Thanks for the ideas. The trunk will have belonged to 1880’s to 1920’s mystic…….a relative unknown, almost famous, that drifted the small towns………..mad or genius? Legend has it he had a gift or perhaps a curse? A small group will exam its contents and…..see what happens?

Any other ideas or suggestions...criticisms?
Al Desmond
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Secret Mountain Lair in Conifer, Co
1462 Posts

Profile of Al Desmond
I've done restoration work for years, mainly on antique slot machines and other coin operated gambling machines, pinball machine, arcade games etc.and one rule to follow is this... If the restoration looks better than it could have been coming out of the factory in it's own contemporary times, then it's not a restoration. And it's not a restoration if you start to improvise and add materials that were not accurate with it's times.
Harley Newman
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Profile of Harley Newman
If you gussy it up, the image will be different than what you want. You're creating a slightly ramshackle image, not one of high society. Keep it simple, unless the decorations might have been added by the mystic.

I have a straight-backed woven-seated chair, built around 1700. It broke, and was repaired around 1800. The thing that's cool is that the repair is so old, too. Follow the same concept with the trunk. It needs to look old, inside and outside.

Unless, of course, the story demands something that looks like it was done yesterday. But even then, the style should be Victorian.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain
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West Coast
3486 Posts

Profile of SpellbinderEntertainment
My two-cents, we magi love to "prop" things up, add gaffs and secret message stickers, and take the pure reality of an antique thing and try to make it "better" or more magical, or gimmicked. To me that can be like dipping a perfect rose in gold gilt. It stops being a rose and becomes decor. With added stuff the truck stops being an old trunk and becomes a magic prop... an probably needlessly. I'd keep it as you found it a virgin find with wonderful battle scars of history, and let it talk for itself and not "improve" or change, or magic it up. I just sent you a four thousand word PM on the topic too....

Magically, Walt
“Tales of Enchantment: The Art of Magic”
by Walt Anthony

"spinning tales and weaving enchantment"
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1783 Posts

Profile of Voodini
I agree that the trunk should be restored purely to its original condition. It would be great to have the trunk containing lots of different items that an early 0th Century mystic might carry with them - fortune telling cards, pendulums, crystal ball, spirit lamp, glass and alphabet cards for glass divination, beads and good luck charms, a silver dollar, etc. You could then invite members of the audience to approach the trunk and allow themselves to be drawn to a single item that excites their imagination. You would then perform the routine based around that item. That would keep each performance fresh and exciting for you as you would not know what item(s) would be selected from one performance to the next.

It would be great to finish each performance finish by having a volunteer placed into 'trance' and communicating with the spirit of the mystic, and then have that information somehow verified perhaps via a diary or destination stickers on the trunk.

The back story would be that this was the trunk of a mystic and fortune teller who worked in a travelling carnival that traveled around the Mid-West. Think Carnivale. Loads of scope for Outlaw, Alchemy Moon, and Lebanon Circle items, plus things picked up in antique shops, flea markets etc. You could have a lot of fun with this!
Voodini - cold reading, past life regressions, remote viewing, Q&A, palm reading, bizarre & seance...
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1523 Posts

Profile of MentalistCreationLab
If the Stallman trunk was restored to it original condition it may look something like this one.. however I think this particular chest is properly restored. More of a bad clean up and some very bad repair work called restoration. The color of the wood looks wrong to me among other things.

Here is the problem with restoring up your chest, once restored the chest will lose all of its charm and history that is upon its surface,which cannot be redone should the restoration not turn out the way you intended it to.

Being in Ohio, I know a few things about the manufacturing history here and Stallman was one of 15 companies here in Ohio that made chests and boxes the 2nd to last of these companies was gone by 1960. Also, a Stallman chest is a bit of a rare find. Some of the other chest makers are far more common. In fact I only seen a hand full of Stallman Chest over the years and your is one of the rarer variates that they made.

The surviving maker of wood chests specializing in tool boxes is Gershner who is still around. If I remember correctly Gershner and Stallman were started around the same time and your chest will date a bit later than the date said by the dealer whom you bought it.But that's okay they close but off a few years. This style of trunk came about a bit later. I could tell you a closer range but whats the fun in that for you. I will tell you its before WW 1 and not the date thought of by the dealer. I give you a hint it has to do with the method of popular travel at the time which to some make this a great find. Here is another hint measure the size. That will tell you most of what your looking for.

More History about the surviving company here:

There china line will probably put the nail in there coffin as well. The American made chest are only 100 times better in quality then there counterparts made overseas.

So what I am saying is leave it alone. You can make sure everything works as it should and do a few light repairs as needed to fix any major issues the chest may have. But you will never get that great and old look back once its restored. The thing is these chests were built to last and when properly stored they do. The others I saw were keeped in a wet basement or in an attic and suffered from heat and water damage.
Paul Prater
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Elite user
North Little Rock, AR
483 Posts

Profile of Paul Prater
I would leave it in it's original condition. I have been working on collecting antiques for use in shows. I found an old suitcase that is wood covered in leather. It was in a fire at some point and part of the leather is burnt. The leather is missing on some of the handle. I have all of the leather tools I need to do a complete restoration, but I want to leave it as I found it.

Think of all of the work that prop makers do to make things looks old. People paya premium for that and you have it!

However, I do agree with the statements that your objective and purpose should dictate the look. In this case, following your back story, I would leave it as is.
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Two Minnie's in The Hell's Half Acre, The Republic of Texas
2130 Posts

Profile of RCP
Thanks to all for the ideas. I gave it a good cleaning and found it to be in pretty good shape as is. There is some rust I need to deal with.
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