The name SEWARD is clear on this sign. Beneath may possibly read "Trunk & Bag Corp."
The website petersburgpreservationtaskforce.com offers the following on the Seward Trunk & Bag Co., "The trunk industry had its beginnings in Petersburg when Simon Seward and his brother-in-law H.F. Munt formed a trunk manufacturing business in 1878. The trunk manufacturing industry rapidly grew and soon became one of Petersburg�s most important industries. Petersburg (and Seward) went on to become the 'largest producer of trunks in the world'. Seward was one of many trunk producers in Petersburg during the late 19th century. As indicated by Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Seward and Munt originally opened a small factory just north of the Appomattox River ca. 1885. The ca.1885 factory produced trunks, bags, and boxes and featured storage facilities. By 1891 the company had a new name, Simon Seward & Co. Trunk & Traveling Bag Manufactory, and had been expanded to include storage warehouses on Fleet Street, just south of the Appomattox River."
The two founders mentioned here were Simon E. V. Seward (1844-1912) and Henry Frederick Munt (1844-1924). In the Chataigne & Boyd Petersburg Directory of 1872-73 Seward & Co. consisted of Simon Seward and H. F. Munt, and they were identified as wholesale liquor dealers. In the 1880 U. S. Census both men were recorded as millers. In Chataigne's Petersburg Directory of 1882-83 Simon Seward was proprietor of Eagle Mills, and H. F. Munt was also "corn & flour mills." In the 1886 & 1888 Petersburg directories the firm of Seward & Munt were "millers and trunk manufacturers." By 1897 this company was known as the Seward Trunk & Bag Co., and they were located at High St. corner of Lafayette St. By this date Munt was the owner of Eagle Mills, and Seward Trunk & Bag consisted of Simon Seward, president, and J. W. Seward, secretary-treasurer. J. W. Seward was Simon Seward's son, Joseph William Seward (1866-1928).
In 1907 Simon and Joseph Seward were joined by Hatcher Simon Seward (1874-1936}, another of Simon Seward's sons. Two years later in 1909 another of Simon's sons, Harvey Seward (1872-1943), joined the firm.
Simon Seward died 5 April 1912. At this point Joseph W. Seward became president of Seward Trunk & Bag Co., The Seward factory was still located on High St., corner of Lafayette. It was also around this time that the American Hardware Co. was formed with Joseph W.Seward as its president. American Hardware Co. became owners of Seward Trunk & Bag Co. at 524 High St. As reported in Petersburg, Virginia, Economic and Municipal by Leroy Hodges. Issued by the Chamber of Commerce of Petersburg, Inc. Petersburg, Virginia. January, 1917, "The affiliated manufacturing concerns under the American Hardware Company on December 1, 1916, were as follows: Seward Trunk and Bag Company; Virginia Trunk and Bag Company; Petersburg Trunk and Bag Company."
American Hardware Co. continued as the parent company to Seward Trunk & Bag Co. until around 1950. Their subsidiaries also included Appomattox Box Shook Co., Petersburg Trunk and Bag Co., Virginia Trunk and Bag Co., Petersburg Traveling Goods Co., Rainey Luggage Co., Standard Trunk & Bag Co., and Totty Trunk & Bag Co. In 1950 Seward Trunk & Bag Co. became Seward Luggage Co. By that time most of the original Sewards had died, and had been replaced by the third generation of Sewards, specifically, Albert Lee Seward (1893-1957), son of Joseph W. Seward, Bernard Jackson Seward (1902-1978), son of Joseph W. Seward, and William Royall Seward (1902-1994), son of Harvey Seward.
The website www.commonwealthpreservationgroup.com writes the following regarding the Virginia Trunk and Bag Co., "The Virginia Trunk and Bag Co. was established in Petersburg in 1898. In the early twentieth century Petersburg claimed to be the leading trunk and valise manufacturing city in the world and the Virginia Trunk and Bag Co. was one of the largest trunk manufacturers in the city during that period. Between 1916 and 1931 the site was also the headquarters for the American Hardware Company, which was the parent company for at least six different trunk makers in Petersburg, representing the majority of trunk manufacturing in Petersburg at that time."
Other non-Sewards also joined the company. Primary among these was George Strother Bernard (1881-1950). George S. Bernard was a vice-president at American Hardware Co. as early as 1929. Earlier he was connected with the Virginia Trunk & Bag Co., where he was a vice-president in 1918. He registered for the World War I draft in 1918 when he was "Stock Holder, Vice President & General Manager Va. Trunk & Bag Co., Guarantee, Petersburg Va." He was also associated with the Appomattox Trunk & Bag Co., the Petersburg Traveling Goods Co., Rainey Luggage Corp., and the Standard Trunk & Bag Co. In 1941 George S. Bernard was listed as president of American Hardware Co. In 1942 he registered for the World War II draft as "Executive American Hardware Co., Petersburg." The 1943 Petersburg city directory listed him as Chairman of the Board, American Hardware Co. On his death William R. Seward became president of Seward Luggage.
Another figure at American Hardware Co. was Robert Alley Totty (1902-1988). In 1920 Robert A. Totty had his own company, Totty Trunk & Bag Co. at 1235 Commerce St. Then in 1931 he was a vice-president at American Hardware. By then Totty Trunk & Bag was owned by American Hardware. He was also vice-president at Seward Luggage in 1950. He was still listed in this office in 1960 (the final Petersburg city directory). His death certificate in 1988 gave his occupation as "Retired. Vice President Seward Luggage." There were several other Tottys at American Hardware and Seward Luggage. Richard Robinson Totty (1878-1956), Robert A. Totty's uncle, was a prominent pharmacist in Petersburg. The website https://www.gluseum.com shows a photo of Totty's pharmacy corner of Sycamore St. and Halifax St., ca.1920s.
According to wikipedia.com "In 1967, Seward was purchased by the�Dayco Corporation, the former Dayton Rubber Company, of�Dayton, Ohio. The company is now a unit of Advantus, Corp. of Jacksonville, Florida which purchased the former owner, Mercury Luggage (also of Jacksonville) in 2016. Seward trunks are sold by fine retailers throughout the USA." It was probably around 1967 that the Seward factory in Petersburg closed.
In the early 2000s the factory at 422-424 High St. began renovation for residences, called High Street Lofts. However, "The former Seward luggage factory at 422-424 High Street in Petersburg is on the�National Register of Historic Places� and was under renovation for residences, the first of which opened in 2006. The second phase of the project would have included both residential and commercial space. On January 16th 2018 at 5 a.m, the old building suffered a massive fire and burned down." Then, posted 24 Jan. 2018, "Wednesday�s�demolition�of one of Petersburg�s most historic factory buildings finished off what a massive fire started a week ago." This was a post at wtvr.com/2018/01/24.
Images of a Seward Trunk & Bag Co. label and an order receipt are found at https://hmsantiquetrunks.com.
Facebook also has images of Seward labels and such.
This ad for the Seward Trunk & Bag Co. appeared in Trunks Leather Goods and Umbrellas, December 1919.
This ad for the Totty Trunk & Bag Co. appeared in Chain Store Age, August 1941.
This ad for the Virginia Trunk & Bag Co. appeared in the publication Harness, June 1915.
Many of those connected with Seward Trunk & Bag are buried in Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg. Among the Sewards are:
Simon E. V. Seward (1844-1912),
Joseph William Seward (1866-1928),
Harvey Seward (1872-1943), and
Hatcher Simon Seward (1874-1936}.
Also in Blandford are:
Henry Frederick Munt (1844-1924) represnted by a simple H. F. M.,
George Strother Bernard (1881-1950),
Robert Alley Totty (1902-1988), and
Richard Robinson Totty (1878-1956).
Copyright © 2019 Walter Grutchfield