Hatbox thumbnail 1
Hatbox thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Design 1900 to Now, Room 74

Hatbox

ca. 1897 (designed), ca. 1930 (manufactured)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The box carries stamps for ‘Luterma’ and ‘Venesta’ on the inside of its lid. From 1897 Luterma was the trade name for products made by the A.M. Luther Woodworking Company for Mechanical Woodworking (founded 1877) in Tallin, Estonia. Luterma was one of, if not the, most important manufacturers of plywood and plywood products in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Venesta Plywood Company, founded in 1908, was Luterma’s U.K. distributor (‘Venesta’ is a combination of the words ‘veneers’ and ‘Estonia’).

Luterma began to make plywood hatboxes in the mid-1890s, under their newly-formed Department of Sundry Goods. The boxes were made to a range of standardised sizes, using a basic mechanised ‘wrapping’ technique. Other products made in the same department included plywood pails, crates and chests. All of these products were manufactured in large quantities for a growing, global market. Venesta sold hatboxes of this type at least until the end of the 1930s. Their 1936 ‘sundries’ catalogue advertises a hatbox apparently of the same design (although lined), offered in four different sizes ‘made to nest’.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Hatbox
  • Hatbox Lid
Materials and Techniques
Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with metal bandings and replacement leather straps, paper labels
Brief Description
Hatbox, manufactured by Luterma, sold by Venesta, moulded 3-ply birch plywood with metal bandings and replacement leather straps, manufactured in Estonia, designed about 1897, manufactured about 1930
Physical Description
The box is in two parts - a main body with separate lid. A leather strap, with buckle, extends over the lid and holds it in place. A second smaller strap is attached to the side of the box - this allows it to be carried by hand.



The circular form of the box is made from a single sheet of birch plywood. The lid is slightly wider in diameter, allowing it to slot over the top edge of the box. The base of the box and the top of the lid are both formed from flat sheets of plywood. A punched metal band runs around the lower edge of the box and upper edge of the lid, presumably to adding strength and as protection against damage. The punching on these bands is irregular, suggesting that it was done by hand.



The leather straps are replacements, although the box would have had straps in this configuration (one to hold the lid closed, and one for carrying) when first made. The box is unlined. It carries stamps on the inside of its lid for 'Luterma' and 'Venesta'. There are the remains of a paper sticker on its outside edge. This sticker, now illegible, was presumably used to label it for travel.
Dimensions
  • Height: 85.8cm (Note: full height)
  • Height: 42.3cm (Note: of seat)
  • Width: 42.2cm (Note: front of seat)
  • Depth: 38.6cm (Note: of seat)
  • Depth: 54cm (Note: approx depth of widest point)
Production typeMass produced
Marks and Inscriptions
Stamped on the inside of its lid by Luterma and Venesta.
Gallery Label
  • Mass-producing innovative materials The company Luterma in Tallinn, Estonia was an important plywood manufacturer in the early 20th century. Its Department of Sundry Goods made use of a new, highly efficient technique of mechanically wrapping plywood around forms to produce a variety of products, including suitcases and hatboxes like the two shown here. Ensuring the expensive new machinery was cost-effective by reducing the number of stages of production, Luterma was able to mass-produce goods to sell to an international market. Plywood hatbox About 1930 (designed 1897) Manufactured by Luterma, Estonia Moulded birch plywood with metal bindings and leather straps Museum no. W.11:1, 2-2016 Plywood suitcase About 1930 (designed 1897) Manufactured by Luterma, Estonia Moulded birch plywood with leather hinges, straps and handle Given by the Shand Family Museum no. W.12-2016 The object sits in the 'Automation and Labour' section of the Design 1900-Now gallery opened in June 2021(2021)
  • Text from Plywood: Material of the Modern World (15 July-12 November 2017) HATBOXES, BAGS AND SUITCASES The Russian company Luterma made these hatboxes, bags and suitcases. Luterma was an important 20th-century plywood manufacturer, with a large British distributor called Venesta. They sold moulded products like these in great quantities. The hatboxes and suitcases were marketed as lightweight and strong and came in a range of sizes. They typify a move towards smaller luggage in the 1920s and ’30s, linked to new kinds of travel in aeroplanes and cars. HATBOX Designed about 1897 Manufactured about 1930 by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther), distributed by Venesta Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with metal bandings and replacement leather straps, paper labels V&A: W.11-2016 HATBOX About 1930 Manufactured by Samson (later Samsonite) Made in the USA Moulded 3-ply birch plywood, with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply at top and bottom V&A: NCOL.524-2015 SUITCASE About 1930 Manufactured by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther), distributed by Venesta Made in Estonia Moulded and sheet 3-ply birch plywood with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply added around the edge of the lid; leather straps, hinges and handle; paper labels, wax seals Originally owned by P. Morton Shand (1888–1960), contributor to the Architectural Review Given by the Shand family V&A: W.12-2016 HANDBAG About 1930 Bags of this type were used by both men and women, and sold in various sizes Manufactured by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther) Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with leather straps V&A: NCOL.602-2016 SMALL BAG About 1930 Small bags of this type were sold for various uses, including as lunchboxes and for carrying botanical specimens Manufactured by Luterma (previously A.M. Luther) Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood with leather straps V&A: NCOL.303-2017 HATBOX About 1900 Manufactured by A.M. Luther (later Luterma) Made in Estonia Moulded 3-ply birch plywood, with an additional reinforcing layer of 3-ply at bottom, leather straps V&A: NCOL.523-2015(2017)
Historical context


Associations
Summary
The box carries stamps for ‘Luterma’ and ‘Venesta’ on the inside of its lid. From 1897 Luterma was the trade name for products made by the A.M. Luther Woodworking Company for Mechanical Woodworking (founded 1877) in Tallin, Estonia. Luterma was one of, if not the, most important manufacturers of plywood and plywood products in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Venesta Plywood Company, founded in 1908, was Luterma’s U.K. distributor (‘Venesta’ is a combination of the words ‘veneers’ and ‘Estonia’).



Luterma began to make plywood hatboxes in the mid-1890s, under their newly-formed Department of Sundry Goods. The boxes were made to a range of standardised sizes, using a basic mechanised ‘wrapping’ technique. Other products made in the same department included plywood pails, crates and chests. All of these products were manufactured in large quantities for a growing, global market. Venesta sold hatboxes of this type at least until the end of the 1930s. Their 1936 ‘sundries’ catalogue advertises a hatbox apparently of the same design (although lined), offered in four different sizes ‘made to nest’.
Bibliographic Reference
Wilk, Christopher. Plywood: A Material Story. London: Thames & Hudson / V&A, 2017
Collection
Accession Number
W.11:1,2-2016

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record createdFebruary 9, 2016
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