The Way it Was

Miner St. Business District

 

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Way Back When

Idaho Springs Settlement – 1861

 

After gold was discovered in 1859, it didn’t take long for a permanent settlement to spring up. Before long, Idaho Springs was a booming community of 2,000.

A Famous Drinker

Being a mining town, Idaho Springs once ran with rivers of alcohol. Well – not really, but miners loved to drink and the accepted story is that at one point in time, there were more taverns in town than homes. On January 6, 1917, Colonel Buffalo Bill Cody, famous for his Wild West shows, made one of these taverns famous. On this day he shared a drink with local miners in the Duck Inn (now known as the Patten Building). He was extremely ill at this time and died several days later. This saloon went down in history as the place where Buffalo Bill had his last drink, a mixture of whiskey and cider called the Stone Fence. 

Steamer Trunks

The name steamer trunk is frequently misused. Many people tend to generalize and call all old trunks steamer trunks; but a true steamer trunk is about half the height of most regular flat top trunks because they were used by passengers in their quarters during steamship voyages. Everything they would need during the voyage would be packed in that trunk and it was allowed in their room. Their other trunks, if they had them, were stored in the cargo hold and were not accessible during the journey. So, the term is associated with steam ships but not all trunks that traveled on steamships were steamers.

The classic flat top trunks we generally think of as steamer trunks were made from about the 1870s to around 1920. These trunks were the workhorses of that period, although flat trunks have been around since the very earliest Egyptian trunks. Another popular design during the flat top’s heyday had a rounded top. There are many stories to explain why the popularity of trunk design went from flat top stagecoach design to the round tops and humpbacks. Some say these rounded trunks came about because people were fed up with baggage handlers stacking their trunks and damaging them, so the round top evolved. It probably took porters about half-a-minute to tip the trunks over on their side and continue stacking them. Maybe that’s why flat top trunks came back into fashion.

Flat top trunks make beautiful coffee tables, and can be used to store blankets or toys. Adding a classic trunk to a room adds charm and a little history to the space. It even brings a touch of glamor, as we imagine the ocean liners the trunks traveled on and the items they carried.

A Touch of Glamour

Sometimes the smallest changes make for the best results. For instance, creating a place in your bedroom where you can shut out the noise and hustle of the world and quietly prepare for what’s on your calendar can set the proper tone for your whole day. You don’t have to change your entire house or even your whole room, just that one corner that you claim as your space, and yours alone. An antique dressing table can help you make that space come alive with glamour and charm. Today this table is called a vanity table; in the 19th century, it was known as a dressing table; but in the 18th century, it was a toilet table.  A mirror that could be tipped for a better view was attached to the top of the table by the 1750s. Thomas Chippendale designed a “toylet” table in 1762 that had not only a mirror but also a fancy, ruffled fabric skirt. Whatever style suits you, giving new life to an old vanity/dressing table can lend new life to your personal space. Go ahead – create that charming, glamorous corner. You deserve it.