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The most common mis-characterization of the Lane miniature boxes is to label them as Salesman Samples. Although we often refer to the boxes as miniatures, they are not miniature representations of larger cedar chests.
By definition, Salesman Samples are very detailed miniatures of actual commercially available products. Often these smaller version had working parts, appeared in different colors and were used by salesmen (often traveling salesmen) to show the features of the actual item. For example, it would be impossible for a salesman to carry around a stove or a tractor to tout the features of the products. Depending on the item, Salesman Samples were usually at 1:6 to 1:8 scale. You can find an authoritative definition of a Salesman Sample with a quick Google search.
There is no known evidence that Lane salesmen used Salesman Samples as they traveled from dealer to dealer. Simply, our miniatures were not made to represent larger cedar chests. The miniatures were initially introduced as part of a marketing campaign called the Girl Graduate Plan which was the brainchild of Lane Sales Manager, J. Arthur Krauss. Over the decades, the Plan offered the miniature chests as high school graduation gifts to girls across the country. Most often, the boxes were presented by a Lane dealer when she visited the furniture store with her parents. Lane’s motives were pretty obvious albeit revolutionary for the time.
Lane knew in the 1930’s, when the Plan was initiated, that between 1/2 and 2/3 of young ladies would be married within 18 months of graduation and would be setting up a household in need of furniture. Also, more immediately, Lane’s domination of the Cedar Chest market was largely due to this Girl Graduate Plan promotion. When the graduate arrived at the dealer, the dealer would suggest the idea of the purchase of a full sized Lane Cedar Hope Chest to her parents as a high school graduation present. Often, the dealer would offer a special discount or promotional sale to the parents of the graduate perhaps even with special financing options.
Lane miniatures were made exclusively for the Girl Graduate Plan until the 1980’s when Lane began selling the miniatures directly to consumers and through other promotions with companies like Disney and JCPenney’s.
Once again, at no time did Lane make the miniatures to represent larger cedar chests – they were simply promotional items referred to as “premiums” back in the early part of the 20th century. Safe to say the Lane miniatures won’t ever lose the Salesman Sample label but at least here the record is set straight.