A rare example of early hand luggage made from wood and black oilcloth, this was a hat case or so-called carriage (or coach) bag, based on its almost square shape. It measures 11 x 13 inches and is 11.5 inches tall (deep enough a stovepipe hat or many small items needed during a journey). Steamer trunks and their smaller variant, cabin trunks, are distinctly rectangular.
Attractively decorated with brass studs, the case still has its handle and keyhole plate, although the locking mechanism and key are long gone. There's no evidence of a lining, but you could easily add one. The box would be wonderful now for storage of important documents or special keepsakes.
In researching this item, I learned that oilcloth has been around since the 1600s and that the practice of decorating luggage with ornamental brass studs dates from the 1700s. Thus, the case is within a very venerable tradition and could be older than the mid-19th century dating I consider most probable due to condition. As you see, it's in remarkably good shape, with no loss of fabric. Provenance is an estate in East Anglia, near Cambridge.
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