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Greentown Glass - Covered steamer trunk

Among the interesting novelty items made by the old Indiana and Goblet Company of Greentown, Indiana (1894-1903) is the remarkable likeness of a "steamer" trunk. The lid and base are two separate pieces. Both show excellent mold detail including leather straps with buckles, metal corners and elaborate hinges with plenty of rivet heads.

The Greentown trunk is about 3¼" long, 2¼" wide and 2 3/8" tall. It was made originally in crystal, frosted crystal (satin finished with acid), opaque white (milk glass) and Chocolate glass. It is often decorated with gilt paint which was not fired on. One generally finds the gold somewhat worn and prone to flake. Occasionally, "Souvenir of [name of city]" is found in gilt paint on the top of the lid of a crystal or frosted glass trunk.

Some original trunks have embossed (i.e. raised) lettering on the base. One version reads "Pan American 1901" on one end and "Put Me Off at Buffalo" on the other. This refers to the 1901 Worlds Fair held in Buffalo, New York. Another one with embossed wording reads "Kranz" in script and "Chicago" in block letters all on one end of the trunk. The opposite end has no lettering.

The Greentown glass factory burned in 1903 but the molds for the steamer trunk survived the fire. They were later acquired by the John E. Kemple Glass Works which reissued the trunk. After Kemple's death, the trunk molds were purchased by Wheatoncraft glass works which also put the mold in production. (Note: Only the plain trunk was reissued. So far, neither of the trunks with embossed lettering have been reproduced.)

The early Kemple-made trunks were unmarked. Later a "K" was added to the mold on the underside of the base. When Wheatoncraft bought the mold, they added a "W". These marked copies shouldn't cause any confusion.

Early unmarked Kemple trunks and lids--despite being made in an original mold--can still be distinguished from the Greentown originals. Kemple modified the molds by adding stippling to several surfaces: 1) the bottom of the base, both inside and out; 2) the topmost surface of the base; 3) the underside of the top of the lid; and, 4) the underside of the outer edges of the lid. An original Greentown trunk is perfectly smooth in these areas. Kemple's stippling is easily seen and readily apparent to the touch, particularly in areas 2 and 4. The marked Kemple and Wheatoncraft trunks and lids all have this same stippling, of course.

The unmarked Kemple trunk has been seen in amber, dark emerald green and milk glass. The marked Kemple trunk is known in these same colors. The Wheatoncraft trunk is best known in sapphire blue (some of which have an iridescent finish). Some Wheatoncraft trunks occasionally have an adhesive sticker with the firm's address and these interesting words: "Handcrafted in the original circa 1850 molds."

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Fig. 1 Reproduction trunk, left, has added stippling to the surface under the edge of the lid and sides of base (arrows). Genuine trunk, right, has a smooth surface with no stippling.

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Fig. 2 John Kemple Glassworks Marks #1 & 2, ca. 1945 till it closed in 1970. Wheaton Hist. Society bought many Kemple molds ca. 1971. Marks #1, 3, 4 on some but not all Wheaton items from Kemple molds.