It is made of natural leather with one leather handle and two latch and key locks.
The interior is lined with olive-colored canvas. The inside of the cover has a label on a black background: “Tak Cheong Tailor Hong Kong.”
Tak Cheong was a tailor and outfitter specializing in men’s clothing, shoes, trunks, portmanteaux, and handbags. Founded in 1888, Tak Cheong was one of the oldest and most prominent tailors in Hong Kong.
The outside cover has initials “J.C.N.” painted in large black letters.
The suitcase is covered with numerous baggage labels.
International travel during the 19th century was mostly for the rich and required large, waterproofed trunks designed to hold entire wardrobes.
Suitcases were not commonly used until the end of the century and were initially only for storing suits and shirts. The emergence of the middle class as well as the introduction of railroads and transatlantic steamship lines made traveling more popular.
Luggage and leather manufacturers began making smaller cases that were more affordable and easier to transport.
Our suitcase has been to many exotic and faraway places as evident by the baggage labels attached to its surface.
One of the labels is from the Durban railway station in South Africa.
The station was built in 1892. In 1893, Mahatma Ghandi boarded a train there on his way to Pretoria. He was forcibly removed 47 miles into his journey at the Pietermaritzburg station when a white man objected to his presence in the first-class carriage.
There is also a label from the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg, Germany.
This five-star hotel opened in 1909. In 1997, parts of the James Bond movie, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, were filmed there.
Another label is from Shepherd’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt.
The Shepherd’s Hotel was one of the most celebrated hotels in the world. It was built in the early 1840s, burned down in 1952 and rebuilt in 1957. Some of the notable guests included Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence.
There is also a label from the Shamrock Hotel in Bendigo, Australia.
It was built in 1854 and serviced miners during the Australian gold rush. Prince Charles and Princess Diana stayed there during their visit to Australia in 1983.
The suitcase belonged to John Carroll Nicholls, son of Sarah Olive and John Nicholls, the senior member of the banking firm of W. & P. Nicholls in Dutch Flat.
John Carroll, a graduate of University of California, became a mining engineer. He travelled extensively, investigating mining properties in Korea, Salvador and South Africa, before joining the International Nickel Co. in Ontario, Canada.
The suitcase was donated by Roberta Kaiser, the niece of John Carroll Nicholls.
Another artifact in our collection, a dress that belonged to John Carroll Nicholls' sister Jean, is linked below.