By Wade Reynolds
If you’ve ever been confused by the term “Hoosier” cabinets, don’t worry you’re not alone. Thankfully, the term is not at all difficult to understand, as a Hoosier cabinet is simply a cupboard style, free-standing kitchen cabinet. These large and useful cabinets can also serve as a workstation when you’re preparing meals and would like all your materials in one place.
Hoosier cabinets were incredibly popular during the early part of the 20th century, and these highly versatile kitchen centerpieces were good for a lot more than just storage. In those days, the majority of households didn’t have the capacity for built-in kitchen cabinets, and since all those ingredients and appliances had to be stowed somewhere, this led to the rise of the highly functional Hoosier cabinet.
Hopefully, when you’re through with this article, you’ll never find yourself asking this question again: what are Hoosier cabinets? The history of Hoosier cabinets is rich and exciting, but these cabinets aren’t simply living in the past – there is much demand for them today. Discover the benefits and uses of Hoosier cabinets, and maybe, one day, consider them as a beautiful and vintage addition to your kitchen.
Why “Hoosier” Cabinets?
What are Hoosier cabinets? Hoosier cabinets got their name because they most famously came from the Hoosier state – Indiana. More specifically the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. in Newcastle, Indiana, where millions of these Hoosier cabinet beauties were sold. Starting around the turn of the 20th century, Hoosier Manufacturing Co. was among the first, and certainly the largest, makers of the product, eventually leading to the coining of the term “Hoosier” cabinets.
In addition, not only was Hoosier Manufacturing Co. one of the biggest supplier of these highly sought after cabinets, most of the other big producers of this style of cabinet also called Indiana home – the Hoosier state, hence, the Hoosier cabinet. This has caused this classic style of cabinet to be linked to the state of Indiana for over a century.
Check your grandparents kitchen (especially if they happen to live in Indiana), and I think it’s likely you may find some vintage Hoosier cabinets. Standard built-in cabinetry didn’t become common place until sometime in the 1920s, so for several decades these were a staple of life in the kitchen.
The Hoosier cabinet made life so much easier in the kitchen, so it’s not hard to understand why they became such a hit – peaking sometime in the 1920s. During the last part of the 19th century and into the 20th, more homes were built in the United States than at any other point in the nation’s history – up to that point in time.
Life became much easier for cooks in the kitchen, as all meals could be prepped in one place before being brought to the stove together. From the time the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. got up in running around 1900 to the early 1920s, over two million of these iconic cabinets decorated the kitchens across the United States. This does not even take into account the millions that were bought and sold by some of the company’s biggest competitors.
During this time, there was upwards of 40 separate companies clawing and fighting over the lucrative Hoosier cabinet market. Nobody is really certain where the term “Hoosier” comes from to describe the people of the great state of Indiana, but myth and rumors certainly abound. The super popular Hoosier cabinet’s prestige began to decline by the mid-1930s, and by the 40s they were seen as quaint and old-fashioned. As the world modernized and kitchens went along with it, built-in became the new standard – until much later, when collectors and purists began to pine and pay good money for antique cabinets such as the Hoosier.
Hoosier cabinets are made entirely out of hardwood, with oak being the most popular choice among collectors and other enthusiasts. However, after a while oak became scarce and expensive, so manufactures would settle for using whatever type of wood they could get their hands on.
As the popularity of Hoosier cabinets began to wane, you’d see them painted all different colors to take the attention off the quality of the wood being used. Oftentimes, it was not at all rare to see a Hoosier cabinet made out of three or four different types of wood. The countertop, or workstation, was usually made from porcelain, which made for an easy clean after chopping and preparing for that evenings meal. For kitchens that were small and extremely short on storage, a Hoosier cabinet was not a luxury, it was a necessity.
Hoosier Cabinets Today
While they are not as popular as they once were, there is still a demand for elegant, beautiful Hoosier cabinets today. Many old Hoosier cabinets can be found in museums, but antique dealers and collectors simply go crazy for these iconic early 20th century pieces.
Restoration experts have long been polishing them up and selling them at a premium to homeowners who want a part of history in their homes. And, these nostalgia seeking homeowners are willing to go to great lengths to have them looking just like they did in the roaring 20s. They still want all the modern conveniences that kitchens today offer, but they want to mix and match with some rare pieces like the Hoosier cabinet.
They don’t have to simply be in vintage kitchens or rustic farmhouses, these things can still fit in with some of the sleekest, most modernized kitchens. With the right eye for interior design, these things can look at peace in any home.
For a Hoosier cabinet that is in relatively good shape, expect to pay close to $1,000 – likely more. It’s not all that unusual to see a well-kept, antique Hoosier cabinet go for several thousand dollars. However, for bargain hunters out there, it’s completely feasible to find a Hoosier cabinet for a few hundred dollars – you’ve just got to know where to look.
Hopefully, you’ll never again have to wonder or ask the question: what are Hoosier cabinets? These iconic cabinets come from the great state of Indiana, and their history is rich and exciting, but that doesn’t mean these cabinets aren’t simply for days gone by – far from it!
And, finally, if you’ve been bit by the nostalgia bug and want to do something a little different in your kitchen, then look no further than the Hoosier cabinet. This must know piece of furniture history isn’t just for museums and grandma’s house, it can be highly useful even when paired with the most modern of kitchen décor.
mages used with permission, courtesy of www.shutterstock.com