Friday, January 11, 2008

The Friday Fact

The Hope Chest

So, I just got finished inventorying my hope chest and have them on the brain. I also have enough dishes to feed an army...

The Hope Chest dates back to medieval times. Back then a dowry consisted of things that could be used in the couples' new home. Everything from linens to dishes to furniture. Over time it evolved into the hope chest.

The hope chest is generally a wooden box. Since 1919 the box has been lined with cedar to keep the moths out of the girl's linens. The chest was slowly filled with items that the girl would find useful after she was married. Linens, dishes, quilts, lingerie, cookbooks, special items from her childhood, etc.

The Lane Company is responsible for the cedar lined hope chests. During WW1 they won a contract to produce pine ammunition boxes. After the war they converted that factory into an assembly line for cedar lined chests and began an ad campaign for the Lane Hope Chest.

My mother was given her hope chest when she was 13. She carried on the tradition with me and my sister. My hope chest is cherry on the outside and cedar on the inside. In the chest are some of my treasured Little Mermaid clothes from my childhood and all sorts of linens and things made of fabric. I have some WW2 lingerie in there that I plan to use on my wedding night and a beautiful linen tablecloth with matching napkins that belonged to my great-grandmother Smith.

The tradition had slowly begun to die out with the first wave of liberal feminists and was almost unheard of when I got my hope chest in 1995. None of my friends had one and didn't understand why I was so excited about getting a big chest for my birthday. In that chest lie all of my hopes and dreams for my future married life. I very rapidly filled it up and have 4 more "hope chests" out in the garage. These are actually Rubbermaid boxes. And in those boxes are the things that Louisiana humidity can't destroy. Including my obscene number of dishes that I could use to feed an army. And I really need to go buy yet another one. There's not just a whole lot I'm going to have to buy when I get married.

If you're by chance interested in reviving this tradition for yourself or your daughters or if you're just curious about it, I recommend the book The Hope Chest: A Legacy of Love by Rebekah Wilson. The book can be purchased from The Vision Forum or Amazon.

1 comment :

  1. I have a hope chest I received for my graduation from High School, and my husband and I plan to continue the tradition with my daughter. My hope chest is made of Aeromatic Cedar and sits at the foot of my bed. I have my husband's letters, some childhood treasures, and some things I am saving for my children.