The jewelry-box style of antique tool chests
  • Comics-book pages all over a chest of drawers
  • Can you guess what these antique kitchen & tool items are?
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    Auction Finds

    Antique tool chest linked to Wells Fargo’s pioneer days

    The weather-beaten chest caught my eye because it was so beat-up. The wood had long lost its brownish color, and the thing looked to weigh a ton. It had heavy iron handles on the front, and its corners were wrapped in the same thick metal.

    I tried lifting the top to see inside, but it wouldn’t budge. There was a metal plate near the bottom on the front of the trunk, along with a paper tag.

    tool chest

    The “weighs a ton” Vanderman tool chest sold at auction.

    I could make out only a few words on the metal plate: The Vanderman Plumbing & Heating Co., Willimantic, Conn.

    Handwritten on the paper tag:

    1887 Antique Chest/Trunk, Victorian
    William Vanderman Patented
    Heavy Duty Tool Chest,
    Thick Oak Slates,
    Steel Body and Iron Handles

    History: Wells Fargo Co. trains

    This appeared to be a tool chest patented and made by William Vanderman and his company, a major plumbling and heating business during the late 19th and early 20th century in Willimantic. He opened the business around 1878/1879.

    tool chest

    The top of the Vanderman tool chest.

    Vanderman was also an inventor. In 1897, he patented a heavy-duty steel tool chest, which came in several styles and sizes, and was said to be very successful. The chests were used by the railroads, and the company’s smaller chests by the Wells Fargo Express Co., and on stagecoaches.

    Wells Fargo has a long history in this country dating back to its formation in the mid-19th century. It provided banking services across the country by ship, mail, Pony Express, railroad and stagecoach, especially for miners in the West. Its stagecoaches and trains were the focus of outlaw robbers. Over the last few months it has been charged with its own highway robbery of customers.

    The chest at auction appeared to be one of Vanderman’s originals, and resembled another one on the web that was said to be from the 1890s. Someone seemed to have put wheels on the one at auction.

    Tool chest

    The metal plate and handwritten tag attached to the Vanderman tool chest.


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