Delaware Public Media

The history of storage, and bandboxes

Mar 17, 2017

The Delaware Historical Society’s Read House & Gardens is hosting a family program Saturday called Under Lock & Key, exploring the history behind storage vessels from the 1800s.


The tour will feature one storage item in particular - called a bandbox.

 

“Basically it’s cardboard that was sown together but they’re covered in wallpaper so they can be quite beautiful," said Katie McDade, who runs public programs at the Read House.

 

She says they’re called bandboxes because they were first made to store men’s collars – or bands – in Elizabethan England.

 

“But they really took off in the U.S. in the mid-nineteenth century so 1825- 1850," McDade said.

 

Think Shakespearean collars – or priest collars. McDade said the decorative boxes would help keep the shape of the collars.

 

They came in a variety of shapes, sizes and patterns – sometimes patriotic.

 

One bandbox manufacturer capitalized on “railroad fever” at the inception of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1828 – and started manufacturing bandboxes covered with ornamental papers depicting railroad cars.

 

McDade says the bandboxes in Mrs. Read’s bedroom are adorned with wallpaper displaying classical Greek themes.

 

The tour will also explore unique storage areas. For example, McDade says that in the 1800s – closets had a very different use than they do today, and were mostly used to store valuables.

 

“Their closets were not filled with clothes, their clothes were kept in drawers and items like bandboxes," McDade said.

After the tours Saturday, visitors will have the chance to make their own bandboxes.

 

Two tours will be offered Saturday, one at 11:30 a.m., and one at 1:30 p.m.