Aspiring Daughter

Hope Chest Part One - History


Hope chests. What are they? Where do they come from? Why were they invented in the first place? Why a chest?

Hope chests have been around since as early as the 15th century. Originally, they were a form of marriage payment. The groom and/or the groom’s father would provide the ‘bride price’, money, oxen, promised labour, etc, as well as providing a home for the bride. The bride’s family, in return, was responsible for filling the new home. As a result, in anticipation of a daughter’s future marriage, a family would begin collecting items for the future home from the time the girl was born, with friends and relatives also contributing. For ease of storage and portability, these items were collected in a box or chest. As this was in hope of the future marriage, these boxes became known as hope chests.

Later, hope chests became more of a display of wealth among rich families than an actual marriage payment. In Italy especially, the chests themselves were very elaborate and often worth far more than their contents. In more recent history, hope chests again became something for the common people. These chests would often be handmade by the family and would house not only lovingly made clothing and linen, as well as other faithfully collected treasures, but also a lifetime of hopes and dreams. This idea of 'hopes and dreams' gives a second reason for the name ‘hope’ chest. Each country developed its own variation of the tradition. Americans, for instance, decorated their hope chests with folk art, while the British dropped the chest idea and used their bottom drawers instead.

Traditional Fillers

A traditional hope chest would be filled with items that would make the new bride’s house into a home or would help her be a better homemaker.


The seeds of family flowers would help a daughter remember her family and feel less homesick, particularly if her marriage meant that she would need to move far away. Vegetable seeds would also be collected, so that the young homemaker could grow and supply her and supply her home with ample food throughout the year.


Beautiful quilts, embroidered tablecloths and crocheted doilies were all lovely additions to a new home that could rarely be bought and almost never afforded. To acquire these treasures, a young woman would spend hours faithfully crafting with thread, yarn, needle and hook. Because of the time and energy put in to create these pieces, they often became family heirlooms, passed down from mother to daughter, generation to generation.

Sewing Supplies

Depending on the resources that would be available to the new bride when she moved to her new house, sewing supplies could mean many things. If fabric and thread could be easily obtained, it might be more likely to include only such things as needles, pins, thimbles, pincushions and special patterns. If getting hold of material and thread was difficult, one might also include cloth making equipment such as a loom and tools for making thread.


In times gone by, a full, attractive dinner set was a great and luxurious expense. Often dishware was handed down from mother to daughter.

Other items such as candlesticks and special clothing eg. wedding dresses, were also often added to these chests. Though these were all common items, the contents of each chest was a unique and varied as the girls who packed them.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look into the history of hope chests and found it intriguing, stay tuned for next week's post 'The Hope Chest Part Two - Things to Put in a Modern Hope Chest'.

God Bless
Written by Sabrina

Hope Chest, Sabrina Articles, Daughter, House keeping, Godly Daughters, Frugal Living, Christian, Home maker, 

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