Tuesday, September 7, 2010

1916 Hoosier Cabinet

I have a thing for Hoosier cabinets, somewhat strangely I suppose, since I don't cook or spend any time in my kitchen (it's used for displaying my PEZ collection). These cabinets, loaded with specialized compartments for groceries and utensils, were a mainstay in American kitchens from the 1900s through the '40s, and were repurposed as storage units in garages and basements for decades after.

They have appeal to collectors of Americana, and many people remember them fondly from visits to their grandmothers. The cabinets can be things of great beauty, but after years of neglect are often found in this condition:


 My mother and I discovered this Hoosier in an alley behind a Salvation Army store, where it had sat all night in a torrential rain storm.  As apparent in the above photo, it had been badly overpainted many times, and was totally waterlogged. But it still had its original etched glass doors and most of its hardware, and I could tell it was old. We felt it didn't deserve such a miserable end after almost a century of faithful service, and we determined to save it. It took a year of sanding, sanding, endless sanding, but finally it was finished last week. When we cleaned the latches, we found a patent date of 1916, which enabled us to identify the cabinet.

Here it is now, restored to its original golden oak finish:


I use it for storing my vintage board game and puzzle collection, which I imagine the cabinet is really enjoying after all those years of holding greasy tools (we think someone had it in their garage for a long time, after its kitchen duty ended).


The silverware drawer is perfect for small puzzles:


Hoosier cabinets are really fascinating things, and you can learn more about them in a great new book that just came out last year: The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History, by Nancy Hiller.

7 comments:

  1. Stunning, just stunning. You did a great job with it!

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  2. Thank you! It was really my mom who did all the hard work, though. I just stood there and said things like, "that spot needs a bit more sanding," and "hmmmmm...I'm not sure that piece goes there..."

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  3. My goodness, well spotted, and well sanded! Top marks to your mum - it's gorgeous. Does she travel? I've got an old cabinet in the cottage over in NZ that I need to do something with when we visit this summer, I could use your mum's sanding arm...

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  4. Well, she loves to travel, and I'm sure she'd be thrilled to see New Zealand. But she said she would "never, never, NEVER do one of these cabinets again." Now, she also said that after she did her first Hoosier decades ago (this is number 2) so I'm not really putting much faith in that protestation.

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  5. Amazing, bought almost identical yesterday. Would post picture if I could.
    Debi

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    1. Hi, congrats on your Hoosier find! There is a great website where you can post pictures of your Hoosier (and see other people's) at:
      http://www.hoosiercabinet.com/ShowUsYourHoosier.htm
      I've posted a couple there.

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  6. I know this is an old post.
    Do you know who the manufacturer is of your cabinet?
    We have the same exact top, and are trying to find out who it was made by.
    Thanks.

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