cedar hope chest

When my grandmother married on June 2, 1919, in Brooklyn, New York, it was common for a young bride like her to have a hope chest. It contained the bride-to-be’s trousseau, the items she had collected over the years in anticipation of her wedding. She would use these items to set up her household and start her new life as a wife.

In this chest, there were linens, towels, tablecloths, napkins, doilies, and clothing for the new bride. Her trousseau might even include bone china and stemware.

Many of the items in the hope chest were hand-made made to last for many years. And because cedar repels fungus and insects, it was a popular material for a hope chest. It protected the precious items stored within, just as my grandmother’s Lane Company cedar chest did.

A cedar chest like Grandma’s would be very costly today, and I never needed such a large piece of furniture to store my linens or family heirlooms. Instead, I can line my drawers and closets with cedar blocks and planks that serve the same purpose of protecting clothes. And the wonderful aroma of cedar always brings me back to my early years with Grandma and her wonderful stories of long ago.

I love the romantic idea of a young woman making and gathering items in happy anticipation of her marriage and carefully storing each treasured item in a hope chest. It is a lesson in sustainability that our throwaway society could learn today: Purchase or make quality items, and take good care of them so they’ll last a long time.


By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.