By Jennifer Huberdeau
If only this well-traveled pair could talk!
If they could, we’re sure these two vintage traveling trunks, which once belonged to members of the Morgan family of Ventfort Hall in Lenox,, Mass., would have so many stories to tell. Travel labels, still present on the trunks, hint of journeys to Italy, France and Germany.
The trunks, a vintage Louis Vuitton travel trunk thought to have been purchased in 1896 and a Moynat womens travel trunk believed to be from 1918, belonged to George Hale Morgan and his daughter-in-law, Josephine Adams Perry Morgan. George Hale Morgan’s wife, Sarah Spencer Morgan, sister of the financier, J.P. Morgan, built Ventfort Hall with a portion of her inheritance.
The custom-made men’s travel trunk, which is lined with canvas painted with tan hemp oil and a red stripe at each end, still has the original Louis Vuitton label with its registration number. The number was recorded by the company to allow the owner to have repairs made or new luggage fashioned from the same design. The style of the label and its location indicate it was built and purchased between 1893 and 1900.
Today, the trunk still has George Mogran’s initials G.H.M. painted on each end, with an ‘S’ below, perhaps indicating his wife, Sarah. A sticker still affixed to the trunk indicates it was used for travel in Europe in 1896. That year, George traveled to Germany with Sarah, where she visited many German spas in hopes of curing her ailments. Sarah succumbed to a heart condition in July 1896 while traveling in Germany.
The trunk is believed to have been in the couple’s New York City home at the time of George Morgan’s death in 1911. Several trunks were transferred from the Manhattan home to Constitution Hill, the Princeton, N.J., home of their son Julius Spencer Morgan and his wife, Josephine.
Junius and Josephine Morgan separated in 1909, formalizing the arrangement in 1912. The couple remained married, but never reconciled. Josephine remained in Princeton, where she retained her status among its social elite. Her trunk, crafted by Moynat in purple, is lined with canvas dressed with a purple ribbon. The outside is still adorned with many travel labels from ships and trains.
Having traveled the world, the trunks were eventually tucked away in attic of Constitution Hill. Here the trunks remained until 1978, when Alexander Perry Morgan Jr., grandson to Josephine and Junius, hired William Doyle Galleries of New York City to auction the contents of the mansion.
The trunks were purchased from the 1978 auction by Wendy Benchley, a global activist for the protection of sharks, and wife of Peter Benchley, author of the novel “Jaws” and co-writer of the screenplay for the movie of the same name.
Benchley donated the trunks to a charity in Princeton, where they were purchased by Daniel Popkin, of Princeton, N.J., who in turn donated them to Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in early 2017.
Information provided by Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, 104 Walker St., Lenox, Mass. More info: gildedage.org
Louis Vuitton men’s travel trunk, c. 1896
Click the thumbnails for a closer look.
Moynat travel trunk, circa 1918
Jennifer Huberdeau is New England Newspapers’ online editor and associate editor of UpCountry magazine. She also pens the column, “The Cottager,” for Berkshires Week and The Shires of Vermont.