Object in Focus: Travel with Saarinen

Full Trunk

Trunks in storage. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

While organizing and re-arranging some of the cultural properties late last week, Associate Registrar Gretchen Sawatzki and I came across an exciting surprise. Tucked away in a corner of one of the many storage areas across the Cranbrook Campus, we found a pair of steamer trunks. (Steamer trunks are traveling trunks that were used when steamships and ocean liners were the best way to travel overseas.) Upon further inspection we realized that they had many stickers bearing international hotels and transatlantic ocean liners. Painted on one of the trunks we found the initials ES.

E.S. Initials. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

E.S. Initials. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

Trunk interior. Photographer, Gretchen Sawatzki.

With a bit more digging and some research we found that these trunks were purchased by Eliel Saarinen from The J.L. Hudson Company in Detroit shortly after his arrival to Michigan in 1923. These trunks traveled with the Saarinens back to Finland, and to other European and international destinations. Check out the inside of the trunks. This is a wardrobe trunk, which you can see from the drawers and hanging section with hangers still inside! Although I don’t think it is practical for travel today, I imagine all the exciting places it voyaged while accompanying Eliel Saarinen on his journeys.

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz, Collections Fellow, Center for Collections and Research

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