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Steamer Trunks And Social Class In Late Nineteenth Century And Early Twentieth Century America

690 words - 3 pages

Dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, steamships were ideal for travel. Steamships were wildly popular during this time because they were an advanced transportation that was more efficient than a railroad because it traveled across sea. The steamboat helped advance trade along the Mississippi and brought new towns, new industry, and new jobs. During this time, America was divided into social classes based on social backgrounds and socioeconomic factors. Although the steamship died, the steamer trunk still lives on.
The upper American class was very fond of steam travel. Steam boats attracted the wealthy because of its superior furnishing and build. Typically, it was even fancier than their houses at home. Each room on the boat was more ornate and comfortable, and was admired more than a hotel. The upper class also enjoyed this travel because of its great customer service. It provided travelers with a waiter who was at their assistance ...view middle of the document...

The final division of society was the lower class. The distinction between the classes was not as much divided in thirds as it was in half, with the upper class on top and the middle and lower classes on the bottom. These social splits in America were based on different factors.
The conclusion of what rank a person was was based on their job, clothing, and more. Not only did clothing reflect their social status, but it also reflected their ethnicity, religion, occupation, and that era’s style. Clothing was more modest and differentiated between genders with men’s clothing being less decorative and more simple, and the women’s being more ornate to show how wealthy her family was. A person of a lower class could be discovered if they wore clothing of cheaper material and design (Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century 272). The easiest way to determine a person’s rank was on a steamboat. The wealthy had the nicest suites along with waiters and access to ballrooms and other fine areas on the ship. The people of a lower class had cabins lower and of less significance. Steamer trunks themselves, however, showed more about a person than anything.
Steamer trunks, also known as flat top trunks, had more meaning than their outward appearance showed. Although they were just a type of luggage that was used by anyone to carry their belongings on the ship, this is what showed wealth immediately. The amount of stickers on the trunk showed wealth in two ways: a lot of stickers meant the traveler was wealthy, and only a few stickers meant that he was not. The reason for this is because whenever a traveler went aboard to travel he received a sticker for his luggage. Having lots of stickers meant that he was wealthy enough to travel often or has had a life of travel, but a trunk without a sticker meant that the person was not able to afford lots of travel. People were not only judged by what was on their trunks, but what they were. Louis Vuitton is an example of an expensive, admired brand. Louis Vuitton started off his career as a layetier, a suit case packer in France, and started making trunks in the mid nineteenth century. He was one of the first people to design trunks as flat tops, and will most likely be one of the last, considering his brand is still venerated.

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