More Cedar Hope Chests: Child Death Warning!



Last week I posted about my cedar ‘hope chest’ and this time I want to show more. But first a safety warning about child suffocation deaths in cedar chests, with over 20 deaths documented. In 1996 the Lane company recalled 12 million chests from 1912-1987 to install non-self-latching locks.

But many Lane chests were sold on or were never modified. Other brands of cedar chests, like Cavalier, have the same deadly feature. Check your cedar chest and call Lane or click here for their recall page if yours self-latches.


For owners of cedar chests that are not Lane brand, how do you make your cedar chest child-safe? Web search found me no diagrams or plans so I removed the top, male half of the lock. A better, more permanent fix requires grinding off the spring-loaded hook, preventing it from ever engaging. That’s what I’ll do to this one eventually.


It’s interesting to see how the hope chest idea evolved. My sister never married and calls hers a hopeless chest.


…Back in the early 60’s, girls were conditioned early to start accumulating things like linens that they would use in their homes when they got married. I remember embroidering pillow cases that said Mr. and Mrs. and His and Hers. The scratches on it are from cats leaping on it to get to the bed. Currently it contains Christmas linens, personal memorabilia and old newspaper front pages from momentous events. It’s another storage place, a place to stack decorative pillows and to sit to put on my shoes.

My dad built this chest for my daughter around the millennium. He says he used some kind of 3/4 inch (19mm) softwood, the cedar protection and scent coming from interior cedar veneer.


I asked my nearly 90-year old dad what the hope chest idea was. He said it represented a kind of dowry or partly even a bride-price, originally, to encourage suitors.


Here’s the corner joint he used. The chest is very strong but light in weight. Note Frisbee.


Since my 30-something daughter lives in a flat in the Tenderloin in SF about the size of a hope chest, this chest is still in Roseville, used for her general storage and filled with stuff, none of it related to marriage hopes. A piano hinge joins chest and lid.

She writes: I believe I was 15 when I was given the blonde cherry [likely pine or spruce: Dad] hope chest.  Built fresh by my Grandfather as a birthday present, the wooden box still haunts a bedroom of my parent’s house long after I left home.

My family never called it anything but a “hope chest”.  I asked why they called it a hope chest, they said that it would be home to quilts, wedding dresses, and any other heirloom that I gathered in my life.  So I figured “hope chest” meant wooden box of soft antiques.


I never filled it with charming quilts or meaningful dresses.  Instead my sloven nature and teenage dalliance into hoarding filled the handsome wooden box with old nail polish bottles, creased greeting cards, scratched cd’s, the green hat from my McDonald’s uniform, and more crumpled receipts than the back seat of a used Ford Focus.

Over the years, I’ve taken stuff out and put stuff back in, never properly organizing. Right now I think the only items of note in the chest are my old synchronized swimming competition suits, still colorful and sparkling among the dust and stale air. It’s possible that I’ll one day fulfill the promise of transplanting the chest from my parent’s home to mine. It’s possible.


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One thought on “More Cedar Hope Chests: Child Death Warning!

  1. Pingback: The Cedar ‘Hope Chest’ |

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