It is said that to have a collection, you need at least three of something. Although it is not very practical to have a collection of large cupboards, for a while several years ago, I was the proud owner of three marvelous Hoosier cabinets. In case you’re not familiar with this type of cupboard, here is a little background info...
Founded in 1898 in Indiana, The Hoosier Manufacturing Company came up with the clever idea of taking a standard cupboard and turning it into an efficient and compact baking center. These free-standing work stations had every modern convenience, like a tilt-out flour bin that could hold 50 pounds of flour with a handy built-in sifter at the bottom. With a large enamel pull-out work surface, Hoosiers also sported a sugar bin, spice rack, tin lined bread drawer, additional drawers for utensils, and shelves behind the doors for more storage. And most had a tambour door tucked just below the top doors that could roll down to hide away clutter.
Between 1900 and 1940, several other manufacturers such as Sellers, McDougall, Napanee, Wilson and Boone turned out slightly different versions, with great success. (The name “Hoosier” stuck, even if the cupboard was produced by another maker.) Earlier cabinets were made from sturdy oak; later versions used lesser grade woods painted to match kitchen color trends of the time. These ingenious cabinets could be purchased from merchants like Montgomery Ward or the Sears Mail Order Catalog and were delivered anywhere within reach of a railroad. Alas, in the 1940s, the Hoosier cabinet fell out of favor when built-in kitchen cabinets became all the rage.
Today, Hoosier cabinets make wonderful display pieces. In my former antiques shop and tea room, I had two, shown above. One was a white Sellers brand cabinet with red bakelite knobs and deco stencils. (It was purchased by a gentleman from New York City who planned to use it in his guest bathroom to hold extra towels and toiletries.) My 1933 green cabinet had original art deco stenciling on the upper doors, along with a large flour bin with an oval glass window to view how much flour was remaining. (A Connecticut couple purchased it for their beach cottage kitchen.)
My third and remaining Hoosier, shown above and below, was the keeper. An older, extra-wide oak model with lovely etched glass in the upper doors, it resides along a prominent wall that spans our kitchen and adjoining great room. Although it no longer has a flour bin, it still has its original tambour door, bread drawer, pull-out enamel top and a "Daily Reminder" sheet inside.
This piece provides an amazing amount of storage. The bottom section houses all of our baking pans and cookie sheets while the drawers come in handy for place mats, napkins and cutlery. And the top portion holds my collection of cake pedestals, Woodfield dishes and an array of vintage glass serving pieces.
Hoosiers are so versatile and can be used for all sort of purposes. For example, I transformed my cabinet into a free-standing, self-contained mini art/craft studio for an article I wrote in the Winter 2010/11 issue of Studios magazine.
Cabinets like mine can still be found at flea markets, antique shops and garage sales. Every now and then, I see one stashed away in a basement at an estate sale. Although I've been tempted to add to my collection, I'm very content with my one, remaining cabinet. However, if I ever have another brick and mortar shop, you can be sure I'll have all sorts of different Hoosiers lining the walls, filled to the brim with wonderful old kitchen ware. Wouldn't that be fun?