Your cedar chest isn't just a pretty piece of furniture for storing keepsakes and pillows. A Lane cedar chest has a history behind it. The Lane Company started making cedar chests in 1912 under the name of the Standard Red Cedar Chest Company, started by company president John Lane with his son Ed Lane serving as general manager and vice president. The company endured through hardships, but experienced a hostile takeover in 1987, finally failing in bankruptcy in 1992. Well-known for its hope chests -- chests for storing household goods in the hope of an upcoming wedding -- the company often followed distinctive styles and designs of the times.
Lane Company History
The company was based in Altavista, Virginia, and continued making cedar chests there from 1912 through 2001 -- the last cedar chest rolled off the production line that summer when the cedar chest division was shut down. In 1972, Lane bought a small recliner company, Action Industries, where the Lane Furniture Company lives on. During years making cedar chests, the company produced a variety of chest styles, marked with its logo and a serial number.
Oldie But Goodie: Traditional Chests
One of the most well-known designs, the traditionally styled Lane cedar chest has the look of an antique. It has a standard hinged lift top that pulls up to open and a lock with a key. The inside of the chest is lined with cedar, which protects woolens from wool-eating moths, since cedar has a natural resistance to bugs. The company used a variety of exterior woods such as cherry, maple and walnut, and often included detailed carvings on the chest's exterior.
Mid-Century: Modern Designs
Lane made cedar chests in both Danish Modern and Mid-Century Modern designs, following the aesthetics of these styles: clean lines and angular feet. The Mid-Century Modern designs often featured patterned wood stains, with looks that appear more industrial, the only decoration being the hardware. Some of the later cedar chests designs included upholstery, pullout drawers and other features, such as the rare Tuxedo-styled cedar chest.
Flapper Style: Chippendale and Art Deco
The main styles Lane used in the 1930s and '40s incorporated thematic designs related to the Art Deco movement of the same period. These designs often featured inlaid woods that highlighted bold geometric shapes in the inlay areas. Some cedar chests, when the lid opened, had hinged shelving boxes lined with felt that provided storage for keepsake items. The Chippendale-style chests had the ball and claw feet and ornate carvings representative of that style.
Name that Date: Lock Recall
From 1912 to 1987, the company made about 12 million chests with a lock that latches shut without you having to push a button. Because children became stuck inside these chests, the company issued a recall on the locks installed on chests during these dates. To determine the age of your Lane cedar chest, locate the serial number on its bottom or inside the lid. Read the number backward to determine the production date. For example, serial number 153040 becomes April 3, 1951. If it has an additional digit, the first number in the series is the plant number. Chests built after 1987 contain the new safety lock.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.