( As of October 2018, over 4,700 people have read this post on my sugar chest. This post represents my own experience and is my own opinion on the subject. If you want dozens and dozens of pictures of real sugar chests, go to Pinterest.com and put "sugar chest" in the search box...you will be amazed at how beautiful and varied they are. My Pinterest page has over 550 different chest photographs shown.)
Sugar Chests were built in Kentucky and Tennessee, with other examples from some of the closest of areas in surrounding states, and were made from ca. 1790 to 1840. I have heard reports that some were made or used in GA, NC, SC, and in New Orleans. A recent reader from Lynchburg, Virginia reports that he has owned and sold documented chests from North Carolina and Virginia. He also says there are rare documented chests made in New England.
They were purchased by upper class people to hold sugar loaves and brown sugar that was purchased from boats coming up the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
Sugar of this type was very expensive and was bought in bulk, so this piece of furniture was created to store large amounts of it under lock and key. I have recently been told that some chests were actually shipped down the Mississippi to be filled with sugar, then locked and shipped back up the river. I don't know if this is true or not.
Here is the inside of one of mine, once divided to house white sugar on one side and brown sugar or coffee on the other. The dividers have been removed years ago, a common occurrence. The grooves remain where the dividers were, proving the original intent of the piece.
The lid measures 30" by 20". The body measures 29" by 19 1/2 ". The height is 26" The legs were probably cut off and replaced. To prevent ants and bugs from getting in, sometime owners placed the four legs in jars of turpentine or other chemicals. That turned the legs black and sometimes they rotted. I have seen this also with hunt boards whose legs were shortened due to the same problems of rot after years of being in liquid.
The back is dovetailed and would not be varnished.
The top has many years of wonderful stains.