A Locked Trunk

By Lori Nohner, WCHS Curator

 In 2012, Carrol Lundeen and his family donated a World War I footlocker. In 2016, when I started as curator, the footlocker was still locked.

So, here’s the story:

Carrol Lundeen, of Annandale, and his family contacted the Wright County Historical Society about donating a WWI footlocker. The footlocker belonged to Carrol’s maternal uncle, Walter Isaacson. Unfortunately, somewhere in the shuffle, the footlocker was closed, locked and the key was lost. Historical Society staff contacted both a local locksmith, and the Sheriff’s Department to give the lock a try. But no luck!

Fast forward to 2016. I start work in January, and sitting in my new office is a REALLY COOL TRUNK. I read the paperwork, asked my coworkers about the trunk’s history, and started brainstorming how to unlock this piece of local history. My skills with bobby pins and paper clips are not great, and I really did not want to drill out the lock. One clue that helped solve the problem was the maker’s mark engraved on the latch. It read “L. GOLDSMITH & SON, NEWARK, N.J.,NEVERBREAK TRUNKS, UG350”. I typed this into Google and learned about the type of footlocker. Then I added “key” to the search. Low and behold, there are people out there who collect and sell antique locks and keys! The world is a beautiful place. After convincing our business manager to spend $25 on a tiny key that may or may not open this trunk, we waited patiently. The key arrived, we eagerly sat down and watched the latch pop open. We were amazed!

Inside was a treasure trove of Walter Isaacson’s life 100 years ago. The trunk held some remarkable artifacts: almost a full uniform (it was only missing boots), a needlework kit, a toiletry kit, Walter’s wallet with German money inside, photographs, letters from his family…even his toothbrush!  My two favorite things are a lighter with the prop and dice emblems of the 90th Aero Squadron where Walter served as an airplane mechanic, and a button that reads “Welcome Home, July 4th, 1919, Burkland & Peterson, Buffalo, Minn.”

Come see the footlocker on display and learn more about Walter’s life before and after the Great War at the Wright County Historical Society. WCHS is open Mon., Wed.-Fri 8am- 4:30pm, and Tue. 8am-8pm. Admission is FREE for all!