Highlights From Our Collection - November 2008
The Hoosier Manufacturing Co.
, IN, ca. 1900-1930s
This Hoosier cabinet (also known as a "Hoosier") was donated to the Museum in August of 1978 by the Ewing family. This type of cupboard was popular in the first decades of the twentieth century. Named after the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. of New Castle, Indiana, they were also made by several other companies, most also located in Indiana.
The typical Hoosier cabinet consists of three parts. The base section usually has one large compartment with a slide-out shelf, and several drawers to one side. Generally it sat on small casters. The top portion is shallower and has several smaller compartments with doors, with one of the larger lower compartments having sliding roller doors.
A distinctive feature of the Hoosier cabinet is its accessories. As originally supplied, they were equipped with various racks and other hardware to hold and organize spices and various staples. One distinctive item is the combination flour-bin/sifter, a tin hopper that could be used without having to remove it from the cabinet. A similar sugar bin was also common.
Special glass jars were manufactured to fit the cabinet and its racks. Original sets of Hoosier glassware consisted of coffee and tea canisters, a salt box, and four to eight spice jars. On the inside of the doors, it was common to have cards with such information as measurement conversions, sample menus, and other household helps.
The Hoosier Manufacturing Co. dates back to 1898 (though some sources claim 1903). Houses of the period were not equipped with built-in cabinetry, and the lack of storage space in the kitchen became acute. Hoosier adapted an existing furniture piece, the baker's cabinet, which had a similar structure of a table top with some cabinets above it (and frequently flour bins beneath). By rearranging the parts and taking advantage of (then) modern metal working, they were able to produce a well-organized, compact cabinet which answered the home cook's needs for storage and working space.
Hoosier cabinets remained popular into the 1930s, but by that time houses began to be built with more modern kitchens with built-in cabinets and other fixtures. Thus supplanted, the Hoosier largely disappeared. They are now very collectable on the antique market with many of them being prominently displayed in peoples dining rooms, kitchens and dens and are often used as supplemental cabinets for other small collectables.
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