Friday, November 5, 2010

The Strongbox

My great-aunt Natalie de Büren was a passionate Swiss artist and in previous posts I have featured examples of her sculpture and drawings. After her passing in 1986 my father was lucky enough to secure her estate and keep her work intact. Natalie was incredibly prolific but not well known, and my father certainly saved many or her drawings and sculptures from destruction.

Interestingly, amongst the lot of art and isolated personal effects came a small wood and iron strongbox.

When I first saw it I had visions of the Pirates of Caribbean, Black Beard and Spanish gold taken at musket point. To further peak my curiosity the key was long gone. My father shared my interest in discovering its contents and actually had the box x-rayed.

After the x-ray he determined the box to be full of papers. OK, so it wasn't gold, but I was still very intrigued, weren't they missing the 1291 Swiss Federal Charter or something? My father found someone who specialized in old locks and had a key made. After many months of anticipation the wait was over, I would finally get to see what was inside the box.

Fabricated key.

Strongbox lock on the underside of the lid.

It turned out to be full of love letters and correspondence from the 1920s and 30s. Kind of a let down, but the way I figure it, there is a reason the letters are in that box. I think it is a deliberate act, not like misplacing them in the top drawer of a chippendale desk. One day I intend to transcribe their contents for the book I will write on my family.


  1. A let down?:) I think it is lovely and wonderful to find old love letters, but then again I am a hopeless romantic. Nice box and story.

  2. As a teenager when the box was opened it was a let down, as an adult I am much more interested about what secrets they hold.

  3. It will be fun transcribing those love letters. Sometimes those old romances were just as hot as anything you heard about (and blush about) today!

  4. That small wood and iron strongbox is very fascinating!



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