Early 20th Century Furniture: Hoosier Cabinets
If you picture a vintage kitchen you will more than likely picture a Hoosier cabinet somewhere in it. The freestanding cabinet and counter combination was a staple in any well equipped kitchen well into the mid 20th century.
Prior to the 1930s there were few houses with built in kitchen cabinets and freestanding cabinetry was king. Although there were a number of manufacturers that made these cabinets the largest company was Hoosier and so the cabinets became known as “Hoosiers” no matter who had originally made them. Some of the companies that made these cabinets besides Hoosier were:
- Coppes Napanee
Generally the cabinets had a pull out bread board or cutting board in the front, a cabinet up on the top, and drawers on the base. The Hoosier cabinet would have had accessories available. This would include:
- Salt cellar
- Coffee canister
- Tea Canister
- Spice jars
- Cracker jar
- Sugar jar
Sneath Glass Company manufactured the jars for Hoosier. The earlier glass canisters were squarer in shape. During the early 1920s the shapes became more rounded. As time went on more additions were made to make the cabinet more efficient. Ironing boards, umbrella stands and other additions were created as the manufacturers' imaginations soared.
Bakers' Cabinet SlideshowClick thumbnail to view full-size
History of the Hoosier Company
Hoosier Manufacturing Company was located in New Castle, Indiana. It was founded in 1898. The cabinets evolved from bakers’ cabinets that were popular during the 1800s.These baker’s cabinets were simple, often homemade, with a set of shelves for storage, a work surface, and drawers. There were often “possum belly” drawers to hold flour and sugar. These drawers would be of tin to protect the contents from rodents. The countertop was first made of wood, and then later zinc, aluminum, and porcelain. The legs ended in casters, both for ease of moving the cabinet and to keep the ants out of it.
In about 1900 Hoosier took the bakers' cabinet a few steps further and added many improvements to help the homemaker. These cabinets were efficient with numerous additions including:
- Flour sifters
- Bread drawers lined with enamel
- Bread boards
- Various storage containers
Hoosier built over four million cabinets between 1900 and 1940. For the first 20 years the cabinets were made and finished in natural oak, however in the 1920s Hoosier started offering cabinets that were lined with enamel. Because of the bright white of the enamel these cabinets were called “White Beauty”, also referred to as “Beauty“
Identifying Hoosier Cabinets
Manufacturers marked their cabinets with an identifying label. Although these labels were often engraved or stamped metal and screwed onto the cabinet they are sometimes lost, especially if there has been repairs or refinishing.
Getting a reference book or price guide on Hoosiers will help you to identify cabinets that have lost their tags. There are a number of ways to replace missing hardware and accessories once you know which cabinet you have.
Check on eBay for missing parts. Often people will take items from cabinets that are in too bad of a shape to be restored. These items may include:
- Glass insets
- Accessories like jars or sifters
Sometimes the top will be separated from the bottom of the cupboard. In this case the piece that is left can be used in a variety of ways. The top can be hung on a wall as a cupboard, or it can be placed on a table or other piece and used against a wall. The bottom can be used as a sofa table, or even a workspace in your kitchen.
Owning one of these beautiful antique Hoosier cabinets is a great way to add vintage charm to almost any kitchen.