Cedar chests date from times when brides made and brought most of their fine household items into a marriage. Learning about an old cedar chest, even one manufactured in 20th century America, is a small lesson in marital history. Learning how to date a Lane cedar chest will tell a story of someone's marriage--and perhaps one of your own as well.
Before the 19th century notion of marrying strictly for love could be supported by a manufacturing economy, marriages were often a financial concern and both bride and groom, along with their families, brought financial responsibilities to the arrangement. A bride's chest, often called a "hope chest" in America, was traditionally filled with the linens she wove and embroidered, beginning as a child. To this would be added items for her own wear and household items like silver spoons, as families were able to save for and purchase them.
Lane Furniture continues to perpetuate the lovely tradition of the "hope chest" to this day. The company has an intriguing method by which you can date your own chest.
Determine as best possible that your chest was made by Lane. This is often indicated on a small brass plate. In other cases, though, you may have trouble finding a name printed on the chest. Competing companies also produced similar chests during the 20th century and markings were discreet. Examine all parts of the chest, including the bottom, for identifying marks.
Locate the serial number, usually printed on the bottom of the chest. One antique-lovers' site suggests that the exact date on a Lane chest can always be determined by reversing the three pairs of numbers that comprise the 6-digit serial number. In their example, the number 248290 would stand for September (90 reversed to 09) 28th (82 reversed to 28), 1924 (why this pair of numbers is not reversed is not explained).
Contact Lane Furniture directly to get further information on your chest; have the serial number at hand. Lane itself says that over its history it has used more than one serial-number system. Their customer service department will help you decode the number you have found (see link below).
Contact Lane even if you cannot find a serial number. The staff will make every effort to help you determine a date for your chest. All information you can give them about style and finish will help.
Tips & Warnings
- If your cedar chest is old or you bought it second-hand, ask about purchasing a new latch for it. A number of years ago, many Lane chests were recalled because children climbing into the chests could be trapped by automatic locks. The recall did not, however, reach all possible customers. Even for a very old chest, Lane can remedy this dangerous problem.
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