Lane hope chests
Jan 28, 2015 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
It’s tough work finding reliable information about Lane Furniture. And to be honest, it’s tough to find an abundance of data period. But as you all know, I love a good research project. Doing a series of follow up articles to my original Lane piece has been on the top of my list for a while and today I dug in. Based on the limited information I’ve been able to glean from trips to the library and some pretty serious Google efforts (sleeves were rolled up the whole time!), I decided to go about it in a different way – look for advertising.
The awesome Life magazine archives were my first stop and they didn’t fail. However, as you can imagine, it’s a time consuming process because you need to look through each issue to find the ads, then try to capture the model number listed. The resolution isn’t the best, so there are some cases where I snagged a picture but had no idea what it was referencing (not abundantly helpful, I know). But I do want to share my findings with you – and please let me know if you have any other information to add or know of a great resource I could interview for a Lane expert feature. I’d love to make Cause A Frockus the “go to” place for Lane information and I can’t build it alone…
Here’s a list of the model/style numbers I feel confident enough to share. These were all part of advertisements in 1950, so that provides an idea of dating. All of these items are for Lane hope chests; remember that their additional furniture offerings didn’t really take off until the mid-1950s/early 1960s. I plan to develop our Lane database by adding more articles that will walk through later years. But for now, here’s a start.
You’ll notice that some of the model numbers are related to other ones. For example, 2437 is the same design as 2436, just in a different wood/finish. I’ll provide some images of the various model numbers toward the end of this post, but first a quick word about hope chests…
What in the world is a hope chest?
Hope chests used to be the most important furniture piece a young lady could buy. In some parts of the world it was called a dowry chest, a cedar chest, or a glory box and as you’ve probably surmised it had to do with marriage. This chest housed all the essentials a woman would need to outfit her future home as a newlywed. Common items included clothes, towels, linens, and even dishware. Within this box lived a gal’s hopes and dreams – a promise for a happy life. I wonder, do we have a modern equivalent? Young ladies today don’t “prepare” for married life. You go out into the world, educate yourself, and maybe you meet someone along the way to share your life with. If you do meet that special someone, typically you furnish your home together or with items you received from your wedding registry. That makes me curious – did wedding registries and hope chests happily co-exist? (Hmm… future wedding page article me thinks)
Now all this talk of hope for a future life may sound a little bit dramatic, but for women in the 1940s especially, it was very real. During WWII, GI’s would often buy a hope chest for the sweetheart they were leaving behind. Take a moment to let that sink in. I did. If Ryan left for an international conflict, with limited communication, and a minor chance for survival, I think I would gravitate toward something tangible. I would fill that box with all the things I imagined us using in our happy post-war lives; it would become part of my coping process. However, for so many women their beloved beau didn’t return. I wonder if their hope chests brought them comfort in these dark times…
Lane Furniture was one of the most well-known companies for hope chests thanks to their advertising. It’s clear to see that they understood the emotional importance of these chests and also that they wanted to capitalize on their customers’ patriotic tendencies. As you peruse the ads, you’ll see all-American icons like Shirley Temple or Miss America touting the benefits of a Lane hope chest (specifically the tag line “the gift that starts the home”). But it wasn’t all flashy ads and great spokeswomen, it was also quality craftsmanship and innovative designs. Lane had a patent on a lock mitre corner joint that made their chests the best in the biz. And they had an array of chest styles that catered to the traditional gal as well as the modern lady.
In fact, hope chests were so ingrained into the married gal’s rite of passage, a movie was made about them. Okay, okay, the movie wasn’t all about hope chests, but the title was. Starring the lovely Dorothy Gish (who was married once, by the by), it was a tale of young girl from a poor family marrying rich guy. (And his parents did not approve – plot twist!) What do you think about the hope chest tradition: a sweet remnant of a bygone era or a reminder of how far women’s liberation has come?