Since late 19th and early 20th century kitchens rarely featured enough built-in cabinetry to hold baking supplies and other necessities, the Indiana-based Hoosier Cabinet Co. struck upon the idea of selling freestanding baking cabinets to homemakers. These cabinets, produced by Hoosier as well as a number of other manufacturers, were designed to make kitchen work more efficient for the busy women of this era. Today, they are attractive and useful collectibles and are extremely popular with antiques enthusiasts.
Where to Buy a Hoosier-Style Cabinet
If you're looking for an antique baking cabinet, you have a number of shopping options, both off and online. While all-wood examples in perfect condition can fetch nearly $2,000, those requiring some restoration work may cost as little as $200. Value is determined largely by the condition of the piece, as well as the presence of the original accessories.
Locally, you can purchase Hoosier-style cabinets at antique stores, flea markets, auctions, and estate sales. Due to the high cost of shipping these items, locally purchasing may be more cost-effective than buying from far-away sellers over the Internet.
HoosierCabinet.com is a site that specializes in all things related to these popular cabinets. You'll find antique models for sale when they are available, as well as a number of Hoosier cabinet accessories. All glassware is original.
One great option for finding Hoosier cabinets in your area is Craigslist. It's the ultimate advertising site and has an excellent antiques section. You can search for specific styles or even put up a want ad for the Hoosier cabinet of your dreams.
There's a reason eBay is a popular site for antique lovers; it's a great place to find just about anything, including antique Hoosier-style baking cabinets. You can also find authentic parts to restore baking cabinets from every era and manufacturer. Before bidding, make sure the cabinet is located near where you live or that you've checked the price of shipping it.
Etsy is an artist marketplace, but it also has a thriving vintage section. It's a great place to look for an antique baking cabinet, and you'll find both restored and unrestored options. There are also lots of great authentic accessories for these cabinets, including canisters, latches, flour bins, handles, and hinges. As with eBay, be sure to get a shipping quote before you purchase.
GoAntiques is an online antique Mecca that often has Hoosier-style cabinets for sale. You'll also find the glassware that sometimes came with the cabinets, as well as other accessories for restoration. Check the shipping details before you buy.
Anatomy of a Hoosier Cabinet
Depending on the manufacturer, the era, and the options purchased, there's quite a bit of variation in the design of antique baking cabinets. However, at their most basic, they include a lower portion with storage drawers and cabinets, a work surface for kneading bread or mixing up dinner, and an upper hutch portion for additional storage. Typically, these cabinets are approximately six feet tall by four feet wide and are about two feet deep. As you shop, you'll see examples made out of various wood species like pine or oak, as well as enameled metal.
Many collectors feel that the real charm of a Hoosier cabinet comes from its accessories, of which there were many. According to Indiana Public Media, some of the following options were especially popular:
- A flour bin that was combined with a sifter, allowing the user to simply place a bowl under the hopper to receive sifted flour
- A sugar sifter and storage unit for granulated sugar
- Racks and compartments for every imaginable baking supply and tool
- Glass canisters and spice jars for storing supplies, many made by the Sneath Glass Company
- Pot racks and hooks for pans
- Pull-out bread boards
- Built-in ant traps
- Pull-out storage bins for produce and pantry staples
- Desk with writing surface and storage
- Collapsible ironing board
Antique Baking Cabinet Manufacturers
According to Indiana Public Media, the Hoosier Cabinet Co. was turning out baking cabinets at a rate of about 600 units per day during the height of their popularity. What's more, they were not the only company making these practical beauties, which were said to save the American housewife 1500 steps every day. Some of the other popular manufacturers include the following:
- Kitchen Maid
Identifying an Authentic Antique Hoosier-Style Cabinet
Hoosier cabinets are so popular among antiques collectors and vintage kitchenware enthusiasts that reproductions abound. If you're shopping for an authentic antique, keep the following tips in mind:
- Look over the cabinet carefully to see if you can find any type of identifier. Often, manufacturers included a metal tag with their name or logo. You may also find a patent number.
- Compare the cabinet to the vintage ads available on HoosierCabinet.com. These are sorted by manufacturer and include original images of the various models.
- Examine the various components of the cabinet to make sure the top and bottom are by the same manufacturer and feature the same wood or metal. It is common to find a cabinet with a mismatched top and bottom, and this greatly decreases the value.
- Use a reference book, such as The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History, to look for your model.
Using an Antique Hoosier Cabinet in Today's Home
Hoosier-style cabinets are among the most practical antique collectibles on the market. Organization is just as important in today's home as it was in the kitchens of a century ago. You can display and enjoy your cabinet in one of the following ways:
- Use your Hoosier as it was designed to be used: in the kitchen. You can store baking supplies in the cabinet and its canisters and use the countertop as a handy work surface.
- Put your Hoosier to work as a bathroom storage unit. With all of its handy compartments, it can store everything from extra towels to q-tips and cotton balls.
- Use a Hoosier cabinet to display and store items in your family room. It's a great place to keep children's toys, books, videos or DVDs, and game controllers.
- Your Hoosier will serve an important purpose in your home office too. It can store everything from pencils and pens to extra printer paper and reference books.
Practical and Classic
Their many practical uses and classic beauty make Hoosier-style cabinets a hot collectors item on the antiques market. Before buying, do your homework to make sure you're looking at the real thing and that shipping won't break the bank. With a little time and patience, you'll find the perfect Hoosier for your home.