Saturday Night Nostalgia: The lovely tradition of glory boxes

Image of a Glory Box.
Did you ever have a glory box? Source: Getty

Do you remember glory boxes?

Perhaps it’s something your family helped prepare for you ahead of your wedding day, or something that you’ve pieced together for your own children or grandkids.

Long before brides and grooms requested wishing wells and cold, hard cash at their weddings, glory boxes were all the rage.

In fact, glory boxes, or hope chests as they’re also also known, can be dated back to the 15th century. The idea was quite simple – a box or chest that contained the many small things a young couple needed for married life in their own home.

Back in the day, couples lived apart, usually with own families, until they got married. A glory box helped ease the stress of moving into a new house or flat by providing a woman with everything she would need to make a home. (How unlike modern couples, who’ve often lived independently before moving in together ahead of their marriage, and thus have an excess of household items!)

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From a young age, families would start collecting everyday items and gadgets that would take the stress away when the big move day came – this was a time when getting what you needed was just a matter of flashing the plastic at the department store. You may even remember your own box or chest being painted a certain way or being carved with an intricate pattern, or the careful stitches you made to create items to store in it.

Of course, every family was different, meaning that most glory boxes and their contents were unique.

In many cases, the boxes were given as a gift for a 16th, 18th or 21st birthday, and people would gradually add to it as the years progressed. Theoretically, you’d start with a nearly-empty box that would be full of useful items by the time you’d said your “I-dos”.

It may have taken you several birthdays and Christmases to accumulate individual items to complete a set.

Some families would stick to a particular colour theme or style, while others would simply grab items that on sale as they saw them – bath towels, tea towels, bed linen, blankets, table liners, napkins and even curtains.

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For some lucky girls, families gifted lavish dinner sets, mugs, placemats, cutlery, teapots, cake stands, pots, pans, and other useful kitchen utensils in their boxes, often piece by piece. Many also made their own linens, antimacassars. doilies, table cloths and the like, to make their marital abode more like home.

As times changed, more people started adding everyday appliances such as toasters, kettles, blenders, lamps and even microwaves. Again, this was a time when products didn’t become obsolete within a few months or years, but lasted decades. Some people even found they were over-prepared and were left with more contents in their glory box than they could use!

The tradition largely petered out in the 1970s, though, and now hope chests are celebrated only as an item of nostalgia. 

Do you remember your family keeping a glory box for you? What was inside yours?