Saratoga Trunks


Try getting this through airport security.

By Mike Hare

Before the rich and famous sported Louis Vuitton luggage, they packed up their Saratoga Trunks for their summers at The Spa.

Back in Saratoga's Victorian heyday, people didn't just come to the Spa City for a weekend, they came for "the season." An entire summer away from home meant hauling a whole summer wardrobe. And in the days before shorts and slip dresses, 19th century vacationers needed some serious luggage. Ladies were hauling countless hats and gowns. Never mind the myriad of undergarments required.

Around that time a huge iron-bound trunk with a curved top and handles emerged. Nobody knows who designed the it, but before long people were calling them Saratoga Trunks -- after the place so many of them were headed.

The Saratoga Trunk made its mark instantly because of its durability, unique design, and size. They came to Saratoga strictly by train, because they were too huge for stagecoaches. By the mid-1850s, the Saratoga Trunk was so well-known that it became the butt of cartoonists' jokes, along the lines of, "it would also make a fine portable dining room."

By the early 1900s, folks were taking cars to the Spa City. And when they didn't have porters to carry the trunks, they weren't as much fun to haul around. The Saratoga Trunk became burdensome, heavy, and obsolete.

Still, the idea of the trunks suggested romance and nostalgia. Pulitzer-prize winning author Edna Ferber's 1941 novel, Saratoga Trunk, was a best-seller. Four years later, Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper starred in a movie version. Part of it was filmed in front of the United States Hotel, where Borders is today.

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.


I have this exact same truck in my living room. My wife and I have had it for about 9 years now. Visitors ask about it often. Now I know more facts to share.

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