Nov 8, 2011

Collecting Hoosier Cabinets

by Susan Borgen (tparty)

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?

16 comments:

Nachokitty.etsy.com said...

Fantastic! I can toally relate to wanting to collect hoosiers. Now that I am opening an auction house, I'm always on the hunt for them. Thanks for a great post!

Callooh Callay said...

Oh I love the oak one--a keeper for sure. Great post!

SweetRice Vintage said...

Great story! Beautiful photos! I love the oak one and the use of a printer and computer. Great blend of old and new!

Susan from The T-Cozy said...

Thanks :)

Bevy said...

Beautiful cupboard...and a great article! I saw 3 at a recent estate sale. I remember my aunts who lived on farms had them...always thought they were cool.

Suzanne@threepeats said...

A bathroom large enough for one of these? Living in a NYC apartment, I don't have a kitchen large enough for one of these magnificent cupboards! But that doesn't stop me from admiring them and the people who put them to creative storage and display us es.

backhomeagain said...

I love my Hoosier cabinet and take most of my pictures for my store on it. It's great for storage and for a time I used it as a changing table. Being a Hoosier, I had to have one! Thanks for sharing...

nora - treasurehuntvintage said...

Great post!! Thanks so much for sharing your love of Hoosier cabinets. When I owned my b/m antique shop/tearoom, I tried to keep at least 2 in stock at all times. Theya are hard to find here in CA, though--and sell fairly quickly.

ArtfulVintage said...

Your oak hoosier cabinet is amazing! I have one that was passed down to me by my great grandmother via my great aunts. I have very fond memories of kneading delicious cinnamon rolls many years ago.

The Chickens' Auntie said...

This was a great post! I learned alot I didn't know about Hoosiers. I have one that we moved from state to state 4 times before I finally had a kitchen big enough to hold it. It looks much like your oak beauty and was worth every move!

Sarah ~ Magnolia's Attic said...

They are all beautiful! I had my grandparents' Hoosier -- now passed down to my daughter -- and remember being especially intrigued by the flour sifter when my grandmother used it!

wonderdiva said...

Great entry! I recently enabled a friend into buying a Hoosier that is a lot like the second illustration you posted, only it's narrower and it's white. I sent her a link to this entry and she loved it! I'm going to have to give in to my love of Hoosiers and get one someday soon. Your "keeper" is exactly the type that I love.

Penny said...

I moved over from Europe not too long ago, so I had never seen a Hoosier before the word jumped at me from Lehman's catalog, as an Amish-made piece of furniture (however there were similar self-standing Butler's pantry cabinets in Europe here and there on occasion).

I can't help but go gaga over the home office unit, as I have a lot of arts and crafts projects, and am always looking for attractive ways to store and organise things.

I had no idea I could find those at estate sales and antique shops, but that makes sense, if it was the "Kitchen Aid" of its time. I'll be sure and try to hunt one down by the time we get a house. :)

kitchen pantry cabinet said...

Grea!! Thanks so much for sharing your love of Hoosier cabinets.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I recently purchased an old Sellers cabinet exactly like your white with red trim and red bakelite pulls. Do you know what year this was made or any other information about it? Do you have any other pictures? I am restoring it to original condition so any info you could give me would be very helpful. Thank you very much!
Opal

Caleb Mast said...

Very nice!!
We are the happy owners of the old 'Coppes Napanee' factory building where thousands of these "hoosier cabinets" were made. This is also the only 'hoosier manufacturer that is still making kitchens today!
We'd be happy to have all collectors come and see what's happening here as we renovate the building to accommodate shoppes and show our history! Check out our website: www.coppescommons.com