Shadowbox History


Grumbler in Training
Feb 16, 2005
Lake Oswego, OR
Hi all! New to Grumble. Framing for 16 years at various locations throughout country and was recently asked a question that I do not have an answer for.... Why is it called a Shadowbox? The box part I get but not the shadow portion. Someone please enlighten me! thanx
It comes from the old days.... :D

sorry. Welcome to the grumble.

In the 20s, (1920s, and no I'm not old enough to remember them personally, but my grandmother had two.), there were boxes that the front was a frosted glass or waxed muslin. In the box were items, that when the whole was stood in a windowsill, would cast a colored "shadow". Actually very pretty. And kind of entertaining if you didn't have a Victrola and a fun grandmother in the same room...

In the 40s, with clear glass and solid backs they were called memory boxes.... the terms are today, fairly interchangable.

Now. If you want a much more in-depth and interesting or entertaining explaination, have this thread transfered over to the Warped. :D
Baer - is there anything you don't know???

I always just figured that they were called shadowboxes because the deep frame sides cast shadows on the contents (unlike clear plexi boxes...).

Yes, blkspruce - Welcome to our Nightmare on Frame Street!
Baer, I love to learn new things from you. I often try to find a way to share these bits of knowledge with others. They think I am really smart. ;)
He He He....thanks.

And welcome blkspruce!
You might find this website of interest in establishing the origin of the "shadow box". It was compiled by Bill Harvey and makes as much sense as any explanation I've heard.

Also check out his technique for French drawer lining for objects. Note that he isn't a framer nor is he familiar with "acid free" or other archival terms that we use, he is a woodworker who offers small crafts and boxes on his website. But his explanation could be followed for technique using the materials that are common to the framing trade to make a nice French lining for a shadow box.