On a recent visit to an antique store I noticed a large piece of furniture marked “Hoosier Cabinet.” I’d seen these cabinets and heard the term “Hoosier Cabinet” before, but for some reason this particular piece sparked my curiosity. For the first time, I wondered about how this unique cabinet got it’s name. Was this turn-of-the-last-century kitchen furniture simply prevalent in the
Ohio Valley, or, like me, was the Hoosier Cabinet actually
born in ?
I did some research and learned that indeed, the Hoosier Cabinet originated in my
home state of Indiana . Indiana
|Hoosier Manufacturing Co., Greencastle, Indiana|
Appearing on the scene in 1903, these innovative and labor-saving cabinets were an adaption of the 1800s “baker’s cabinet.” First manufactured by the Hoosier Manufacturing Company of
Indiana, the Hoosier Cabinet became an instant
hit with homemakers of the early 1900s and soon other furniture manufacturers began
producing their own version of the popular cabinet. Some other manufacturers
included Sellers, McDougall, Napanee, Kitchen Maid, Wilson and Boone, but
despite the maker, the cabinets all soon became known simply as “Hoosiers.” Indiana
The Hoosier Cabinet conveniently brought together all the items and work surface needed for food preparation. The upper cupboards held dishes and supplies while the lower part held pots and pans. The middle section featured an alcove equipped with handy flour and sugar bins. The tilt-out flour bin with a 50 lb. capacity even included a sifter. There were drawers for cutlery and towels and a metal-lined drawer especially designed for freshly baked bread and cake. A prominent feature of the cabinet was the work surface. Originally made of wood, it eventually evolved into a choice of aluminum or “porceliron,” (porcelain-enameled steel). Some cabinets included built-in spice jars and salt boxes as well as coffee and tea canisters. Nearly any labor-saving device that could be imagined was fit into different versions of the cabinet. This circa 1907 advertisement by the Boone Company boasts that 369 women designed their kitchen work station.
Below are several varieties of Hoosier Cabinets.
Aside from the practicality of their design, these cabinets were simply gorgeous furniture pieces. Manufactured between 1900 and 1940, there were many variations of the Hoosier Cabinet. The earliest versions were made of sturdy oak, but later manufacturers began to use lesser grades of wood and painted the cabinets to match popular kitchen color schemes of the era.
When I’m punching a cook time into my computerized microwave oven or flat top electric range, I often wonder what my grandmother would think of these modern laborsaving appliances. But looking at these pictures, I find myself envious of my grandmother! Modern kitchen designers could learn something from these work stations of the early 20th Century. I can imagine today’s versions including computerized timers, temperature controls for the work surface, and humidity controls for the flour, sugar, and salt bins.
Sadly, the Great Depression and World War II pretty much did in the Hoosier Cabinet. During the Depression, sales slowed to a trickle then, with the outbreak of the war, the materials used in making the cabinets became scarce. By the end of the war built-in kitchen cabinets came into vogue, replacing the freestanding models. But during their heyday—between 1903 and 1940—it is estimated that nearly four million Hoosier Cabinets were produced, most in
I don’t remember much about my grandmother’s Hoosier Cabinet except that it was green and had a flour bin with a built-in sifter and a porcelain work top. But learning how Hoosier Cabinets have gained in value over the past eighty years makes me wish my family had held onto grandma’s.
Do you have a Hoosier Cabinet in your family or the memory of one? I’d like to hear your Hoosier Cabinet story.
Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of Indiana.
Check out her latest releases at www.ramonakcecil.com