Handmade Gifts: Bandboxes

A seller of bandboxes.

Bandboxes (or band box), also sometimes called hat boxes, were used primarily by men and women in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to protect, hold and carry their hats or other articles of clothing. Men’s hats during this time period were mostly made out of beaver pelts (beaver hat), which were imported and very valuable. These early example of bandboxes were made out of wood and were sometimes covered with block-printed paper or other types of wallpaper. One of the first receipts that mentioned the word “bandbox” was in 1636 in New England on the estate of Sarah Dillingham in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

The Bandbox Room, by Ruth M. Hallock. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

By the mid-eighteenth century bandboxes were primarily being made for personal use, such as brideboxes and were used to carry light articles of ladies’ apparel or accessories. By the 1820-1850 bandbox were mass-produced, and mainly made out of pasteboard and covered with colorful printed, stenciled paper or wallpaper. They were often hand sewn together and lined with scraps of newspaper in the interior. All different kinds of accessories, such as hair combs and knitting needles were being sold and shipped inside pasteboxes, mostly of which were sold by wallpaper manufactures.

Between 1823-1855, a woman by the name of Miss Hannah Davis (1784-1863), began creating and selling bandboxes from wallpaper and newspapers that her friends and neighbors saved. Some of her bandboxes had small labels and a few have been identified. They came in all different wallpaper designs of birds, animals, and public buildings which were very fashionable at the time, especially images of the opening of the Grand (or Erie) Canal on October 25, 1825.

Here are some directions on how to make your own bandbox and links to other directions.

Handmade bandbox.


  • Bandbox (purchased), pasteboard, cardboard or poster board
  • Wallpaper (or paper and paint)
  • Newspaper (preferably old)
  • Glue/hot glue gun/paste
  • Needle
  • Heavy duty thread
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife (Exacto)
  • Clamps/paper clips/tape
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler

Gather all of your supplies and determine if you are going to purchase a pre-made bandbox or attempt to make your own. I chose to buy a pre-made box, because of the lack of time and I wanted to spend more time painting my own wallpaper. You can purchase vintage wallpaper online or check out this awesome store located in NYC, Secondhand Rose. My designs came from the Adelphi Paper Hangings catalog and were painted on heavy duty drawing paper.

Once you figured out these few questions, you can move on to making your bandbox. There are many different ways to create the actual bandbox: Buy a bandbox; Cut out pasteboard pieces and glue together; Cut out pasteboard, glue on wallpaper and sew pieces together.

Check out the details in the links below.





Once you have your bandbox and have picked out your design (wallpaper, etc.) for the exterior, begin by cutting out the main part of the bandbox. Be sure to leave about a 1/2″ extra on each end for the bottom and inside, this will be tucked under. Glue down the wallpaper, be sure the center seam is glued down! Cut small slits if needed when tucking down the edges, which can help remove any bubbles.

Pick out your interior paper, old newspaper looks great! They can be found online, library book sales or contact your local library/historical society and see if they have any suggestions. Once the wallpaper is glued down and dried, cut out your interior paper. Cut the circle 1/2″ larger, this will allow overlap on the sides. Glue down the bottom first carefully pushing the paper into the seams along the bottom. The side paper should be the exact length and 1/2″ wider for overlap at the seam.

Create the lid interior in the same fashion, be sure the paper is not too thick and will still allow the lid to fit. The exterior wallpaper is cut into two pieces, a circle top and a side 1/2″ larger to allow overlap on the top and inside, again cut small slits if needed to fit better and remove any bubbles.

Inside view, not quite dry.

Again there are many alternate ways to create a bandbox! Instead of glue use a heavy duty needle and thread, which I am excited to try next!

Suggested readings:

Neat and Tidy by Nina Fletcher Little


If anyone has a way that is easier or faster please don’t hesitate to write to us at farmhousemag(at)gmail(dot)com or comment below!

3 Responses to “Handmade Gifts: Bandboxes”
  1. Love this post. Can’t wait to try one.

  2. sewassbe says:

    Great tutorial! Love that they were lined with old newspaper.

  3. So cute! I love the look of the vintage inspired paper on the inside. It adds a nice touch!

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