Opening the Lid and Peeking Inside a Hope Chest…
Does Hope Attract You?
Hope is an attractive word. Our lives are fueled by hope. So, whoever thought of combining hope with a beautifully crafted wooden chest deserves special credit. But what is a hope chest? You may think you’re already very familiar with the hope chest. If so, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. This gorgeous wooden box has more inside than meets the eye. Enjoy discovering the details behind the history of the hope chest and the creative purposes it holds.
How is Hope Connected to These Chests?
A hope chest is a wooden piece of furniture that is traditionally used by young women to prepare items for future marriage. The items which the women filled the chest with symbolized anticipation for a happy and fulfilling future as a married wife and household manager.
Surprising History of the Hope Chest
Hats Off to More than One Creator
They say great minds think alike…this saying is true for the origin of the hope chest. Often, one person or country is given credit for the creation of an innovation, but the hope chest’s origin is shared among many different countries. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, and the Middle East all shared claims to the creation of a decorative wooden box used for valuables, as a dowry (wedding) gift, or in preparation for marriage.
Hope for America
In 18th century, European settlers introduced the hope chest to America. During the early colonial days, the settlers relied on these sturdy wooden boxes to protect their most valuable possessions (their textiles). In America during the 19-20th Centuries, the hope chest grew in its popularity and function. At the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century, the hope chest had a lapse of popularity, but in recent years this resilient wooden box is being rediscovered once again.
The Hope Chest’s Many Monikers
More Than One Name!
You most certainly have heard of cedar chests, and vintage chests, but have you ever heard of a dowry or trousseau chest? How about a glory box or a cassone? This last one will might throw you for a loop…bottom drawer.
Since hope chests originated from many different countries, this lucky box has received quite a few endearing nicknames.
Nicknames of the Hope Chest Inspiration
Cassone – is an Italian reference to the hope chest.
Bottom Drawer – is a United Kingdom reference to a hope chest.
Glory Box – is an Australian reference to the hope chest.
Trousseau Chest – is a European, South Asian, African, and Balkans reference to the hope chest.
Lane Cedar Chests: How One Company Made It Big!
Grandma Might Remember
Ever hear about the Lane Cedar Hope Chest? Do you recognize any of these iconic Lane Cedar Chest ads? If not, your grandmother would surely recall fond memories of this coveted home item if not possibly having owned one herself.
The Lane Family Make Quite the Crew
Hope chests became insanely famous in America during the 20th century. Its secret to fame is due impart to an ambitious and hardworking family.
It all began when John Edward Lane, a general contractor and founder of the city of Altavista, Virginia, encouraged his 21-year-old son, Edward Hudson Lane, to start a chest business out of an old, box plant which John Lane purchased for $500 in 1912. Thankfully Edward Lane’s hesitancy to continue to manufacture boxes inspired his father to make the switch to cedar chests.
Armed with the original company name, Standard Red Cedar Chest Company (later morphing into the Lane Company) and with a focus on cedar chests production, the family owned business slowly began to expand. The Lane’s original goal with their cedar chests was to offer reliable protection for seasonal clothing from pesky moths, but as the business grew so did their product goals.
Clever Advertising Did the Trick
The Lane Cedar Chest strongly advertised their quality wooden product as a multi-purposed chest perfect for holding personal treasures of the young and old, for the future and the present. They highlighted the idea of a hope chest being essential to the happiness and success of a love life and a family’s well-being.
The Lane Company’s cedar chests soon left their competitors far behind them. They were given an edge over their competitors by enthusiastically promoting the cedar chests among young women. This played largely in part to their national advertisement strategy, which included famous celebrities like Shirley Temple and Miss America, insurance policies, and free promotional gifts. For example, in 1930 Lane Company gave away free 9” cedar chests to graduating girls.
The Largest Cedar Chest Company in the World
With the company’s increased sales and brand loyalty, they were well on their way to becoming the all-time largest cedar chest company in the world. By the time John Edward Lane passed away in 1930, the company was selling between 250 and 300 cedar hope chests a day!
The Thing of the Past & Present
While the hope chest is an age-old tradition for many countries and cultures within them, today, they still offer fresh inspiration and wonderful storage for many women and men, young and old. The hope chest tradition remains alive and well especially among the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish. Hope chests of today (with diverse personal customization options) can fit right into any home: traditional, modern, chic, or hip. Regardless if a woman marries or not, a hope chest’s items can prepare her for a home of her own.
Best Ways to Fill Your Very Own Hope Chest
Good for Your Daughter and Son
Hope chests are a practical and engaging way to participate in preparing for your daughter’s or son’s future as an adult.
Good for Yourself
Maybe you never owned a hope chest, but desire to begin storing away precious items to pass down to your own future generations.
Good for Anyone
Maybe you have experienced the joy and hope of owning one and desire your daughter, son, niece, nephew or grandchildren to own this special piece of furniture which encourages their own preparation and preservation of a wide variety of items useful and memorable for their future whether married or single.
What to put in a hope chest?
Whatever your scenario may be, here are some items which are perfect for storing in one’s hope chest.
- A set of white dishes
- Cloth napkins
- A quality set of dinnerware
- Cooking utensils: Ice cream scoops, cheese slicers, zucchini spiralizers etc.…
- Baking pans
- Childhood keepsakes: such as books, toys, clothes, diaries, etc.
- Self Help Books: Marriage, child-rearing, finances (Dave Ramsey), life scheduling, etc.…
- Leather Bags
- Audios or old tapes
Check out these blogs to gather further inspiration and tips. Raising Homemakers and the Pink Bride
10 Practical Reasons Why You Should Own A Hope Chest
- They create purpose and happiness by producing a positive outlook on the future.
- They teach how to prepare for the future.
- They encourage thoughtful preservation of important items.
- They offer safe and reliable storage space.
- They are beautiful and accent any room in your house.
- They encourage partnership and teamwork with your children by working together to fill the chest.
- They are quality pieces of furniture which last for generation upon generations.
- They are a symbol of hope, family, and love.
- They are versatile! There are many ways to use your chest such as: storage, an aesthetically appealing piece of furniture, or a giftbox.
The Bottom Line
10. …You fill in the blank…Ultimately, everyone has their own unique and special hopes and dreams for the future. It is a hope chest’s design to cradle and secure the fulfillment of your personal dreams and hopes. We hope we’ve answered your question on what is a hope chest. At Amish Handcrafted, our goal is to make a wooden chest for you that will last for generations.