Vintage Wooden Boxes | Crates | Cases | Toolboxes

Wooden boxes were often made to store and carry camping equipment like these lanterns.
Wooden boxes were often made to store and carry camping equipment like these lanterns.
Wooden tool boxes were made for many trades.
Wooden tool boxes were made for many trades.
Food items were often sold in wooden boxes
Food items were often sold in wooden boxes
Wood crates held wood berry boxes for picking and shipping
Wood crates held wood berry boxes for picking and shipping
Wooden boxes were used for collection of food products from hand crank processors.
Wooden boxes were used for collection of food products from hand crank processors.
Wooden accessories boxes came with sewing cabinets.
Wooden accessories boxes came with sewing cabinets.
Many children toys were build using wooden shipping crates and boxes.
Many children toys were built using wooden shipping crates and boxes.
An early wooden box pet carrier
An early wooden box pet carrier
Wine and other fragile glass items were shipped in wooden crates filled with straw.
Wine and other fragile glass items were shipped in wooden crates filled with straw.
A crude wooden box made to hold a salad maker
A crude wooden box made to hold a salad maker
Wooden box made to hold an battery lantern
Wooden box made to hold an battery lantern
Wooden tool carpenter tool box
Wooden tool carpenter tool box
Wooden painters box
Wooden painters box
Another wooden box for a Coleman lantern with out side storage.
Another wooden box for a Coleman lantern with out side storage.
Wooden box made to hold test equipment
Wooden box made to hold test equipment
 A vintage wooden foot locker
A vintage wooden foot locker

Vintage wooden boxes were used for all types of equipment storage and home organization.

If you're of the baby boom age or older you will probably quickly relate to how people would bring new gadgets home and then quickly build wooden boxes to protect and store their prized purchases.

Growing up in the 60s like me you probably will also remember all types of wooden boxes being used in your grandparents, aunts and uncles homes for storing all types of things around the home and workshops.

Today those who are so accustomed to ready-made storage boxes and crates may not even be able to relate to how much of a role these old wooden boxes played and impacted our American Heritage.

Why so many wooden boxes?

In the 1800s and early 1900s Wooden boxes were very plentiful as so many basic things that we purchase today in cardboard only came in wooden boxes or crates.

Even a product like a block of Velveeta Cheese came in a wooden box.

In fact most of the basic food staples that we purchase off the shelf today were packaged in wooden boxes, metal tins, a glass jar, or sold in bulk.

Bulk items were then placed in a paper bag or wrapped at the store in paper and string.

Most likely the groceries would have then been placed in a larger wooden box to carry out.

These larger boxes were used to ship goods into the store just like cardboard boxes are used today.

Even cigar boxes were made of wood later covered with advertising paper and then replaced with cardboard covered with the advertising paper.

Why did so many make homemade wooden storage cases?

Perhaps it was from an era following The Great Depression where people didn't get to purchase new items that often.

When they did they just cherished new gadgets so much that they wanted to protect it by building a wooden box to store it in.

Most people saved for months to over a year to purchase even a simple new product.

With this much sacrifice they wanted to keep a new item safe and protected for as long as they lived.

Because money was so tight many of the wooden boxes were made into such things as children toys and jewelry boxes.

It was also a time when people seemed to have more time to enjoy home workshops and making things with their hands.

Woodworking was a major part of the school curriculum, where students built wood boxes for home gifts and to use for their own storage.

If you grew up as a young boy in this era you were probably very active in boy scouts.

Those organizations helped kids to build wooden boxes to carry and store their camping gear.

Many products were still being shipped in wooden boxes that ended up being repurposed into other uses beyond storage cases.

Understandably as these boxes were really just too nice to pitch.

Some of these boxes were even made of premium woods complete with finger jointed corners.

Many wooden boxes and crates were recycled into other smaller boxes.

The conversion may have been as simple as adding some hinges and a latch to a wooden top to completely harvesting out the fine hardwoods from a shipping crate and then handcrafting a completely new box.

If you look closely at some of the vintage wooden boxes the original product advertising may still be on the side.

Selections were limited for ready-made storage solutions so people just improvised and built things themselves.

Some of the home built products such as the pet carrier in the picture probably inspired someone to run off to the Patent Office.

They then probably sold the patent or started producing them commercially to become what we know as a pet carrier today.

Why were more manufactured storage boxes not used?

Shopping centers were nonexistent and stores were far and few in between.

People just didn't have the money to splurge on such things so they made do with the resources they had and the wooden boxes were a huge available free resource to them

Most shopping trips to town were only for a Saturday morning visit to the one and only grocery and hardware store with a very tight shopping list.

What else were wooden boxes used for?

Some manufactures made wooden storage boxes to ship as well as to use for storage.

These factory made boxes were generally made in furniture factories for the manufacturer.

They were also well made with dove tail and finger jointed corners.

Manufactured wooden boxes accompanied such things as kids micro scopes, erector sets, sewing machines, and hand cranked food processors.

Some of the homemade wooden boxes were handmade by skilled craftsmanship with dovetailed joinery while others were made very crudely with uneven butt jointed edges and joinery.

Plastic molded cases were yet to be developed and even cardboard boxes just didn't seem to be as available as we use them today.

My memories

As I remember not many items were actually purchased new in boxes to recycle for storage, except for an occasional new pair of shoes or a mail order item.

In fact in all the years that I visited my grandparents I can never really remember them purchasing anything new.

Even the old black and white TV kept bringing them Lawrence Welk and Gunsmoke for the few times that I can remember them even watching it.

That old tube was still being used well past the time when others had color televisions.

Like food, most of the garden supplies and other homestead supplies were purchased in bulk and then placed in paper sacks or hand wrapped in brown paper and tied off with a string.

Auctions were also a big part of this era where people would purchase items to cart home and then place them into their own use.

Perhaps wood was the only real option. It again was plentiful and mostly free.

Regardless, now strolling through antiques stores and touching and feeling the history of these old vintage boxes bring back so many fond memories of growing up in that era of vintage charm.

I can remember my granddad who would take even the simplest garden tools that we take so much for granted today and spend hours cleaning and sharpening them.

Before he would put them away he would apply a little dab of grease to protect them from rusting and then even wrapped the heads in butcher paper and tie it off with string.

In his workshop, what little power tools he had were all stored away neatly in their own handmade wooden boxes that he built himself.

His hand tools were also kept in wooden tool boxes with dividers specifically hand built to hold the individual tool item.

Grandma always kept her meat grinder, apple peeler, and other seasonal kitchen gadgets stored away in wooden handmade boxes.

Some were very elaborate with additional outside compartments to hold accessories.

I don’t know how many wooden boxes that I have seen over the years that were home built to specifically hold Coleman camping lanterns and stoves.

They even had built in racks and compartments to hold the extra mantles and the filling funnel.

Checkers were one of our almost daily events during my summer visit at my grandparents. They too were stored in an old wooden box that they probably had for most of their married life.

Back then family photos were placed in photo albums the extras were stored in a wooden box and brought out often to view.

How are wooden boxes and cases being used today?

Sadly today not many are taking the time to make wooden boxes for general storage.

The time and material has just become such a large factor when you can run off to a store and purchase a blow molded case.

These newer cases are much lighter to handle and have built in cushions to better protect the equipment.

Most of the nicer vintage wooden boxes are being used as décor or to display the original antique items as they were used in the era.

A word about our sponsor

Cottage Craft Works http://www.cottagecraftworks.com is an online back to basics general store interested in preserving and sharing the vintage history of old fashioned products and practices used during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The business model is designed around providing a source to those who are still interested in using old fashioned products, while returning to country style self sufficiency as people lived during this era.

Many products exclusive to Cottage Craft Works, are still being made and used in the USA Amish communities.

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1 comment

rose-the planner profile image

rose-the planner 3 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

Great article! I didn't grow up in an era where wooden boxes were used, however, I absolutely love vintage boxes and I think they add character to a home's décor. Some retailers sell wooden boxes that are made to look vintage as well. I thought this was very insightful and interesting.. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

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