What Is A Hope Chest? (Hope Chest History)

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The name hope chest sounds quite catchy, but what type of chest is this?

A hope chest is a piece of furniture in the shape of a chest traditionally used to collect different types of items, household linens, and clothes by an unmarried young woman in anticipation of married life.

Typically it is made of different types of wood, from cedar to mahogany, and it may have different patterns carved or painted on it. Additionally, it also may or may not have a key and lock…

Where Does The Name Hope Chest Come From?

The hope of chest has many different names: it is also called glory box, trousseau chest, dowry chest or cedar chest; the name hope chest is centuries old and it reveals rich, fascinating history that originated in Europe and later on, in the 18th century, was further spread to America.

It comes from times when marriage included the exchange of gifts and properties between the families, therefore these handmade pieces of furniture were given to young women as a symbol of good luck and ‘hope’ in their preparation for marriage.

The young-brides-to-be typically collected their most precious items, often handmade by them, (items like towels, napkins, blankets, bed linen, occasional dresses, even dishes) in this chest and brought it with them into their new home.

What Are The Different Types Of Hope Chests?


Delta Children Monterey Farmhouse Hope Chest Toy Box, Rustic White

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Traditionally, the hope chest is made out of cedar wood which repels insects and therefore protects the clothing items and linens inside.

However, today there are numerous hardwoods used in the construction, such as cherry, maple, and oak.


Moreover, some models also include a lock mechanism with a key. There are several different types of hope of chests, among which the most popular are:

  • Traditional – the traditional form is rectangular, deep, made out of cedarwood with a simple design and esthetic. It is a timeless piece.
  • American colonial – originated in the 18th century and these are constructed of various species of lumber ranging woods from inexpensive pines used for “country” style types, to more expensive hardwoods such as cherry, walnut, and imported mahogany for more luxurious looks. They can have a traditional chest shape or may include a few drawers or doors.
  • Country – you will notice them immediately because of their simple shape and the gorgeous, stunning carved motifs. These too are made of different types of hardwood.
  • French Country – French furniture designs are recognizable everywhere due to their eye-catching look, and the French country style hope chests are no exception; made of graved woods with sturdy legs and ornate feet, French country style hope chests are one of the most popular hope chests.

The Troubled Past Of The Hope Chests

In the past, many started reconsidering buying hope chests as reports of it presenting a suffocation hazard for children started to surface: several cases resulted in child deaths due to suffocation inside the hope chest.

The traditional design with a self-lock mechanism can trap the children under a heavy often self-locking lid; this issue became quite serious in 1996 when the reports of 6 children’s deaths surfaced, and some manufacturers recalled over 12 million hope chests produced between 1912 and 1987 off the market.

Due to this, and the progressive views of young girls, nowadays, these chests are not so common or popular as they used to be in the past.

Nevertheless, they are still used, but rather in different contexts/uses, so you will find them used as coffee-tables or TV units in the living room giving it an eclectic, vintage look, or as a side bench next to the bedroom beds.

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