An antique Hoosier cabinet is basically a 100-year-old or older free-standing kitchen cabinet. To properly identify and value any Hoosier cabinet, you'll need to learn about the history and manufacturers of these coveted pieces of furniture. Today, they are attractive and useful collectibles, and are extremely popular with antiques enthusiasts.
A Brief History of Antique Hoosier Cabinets
While there is some debate as to which manufacturer made Hoosier cabinets first, all experts agree that Hoosier cabinets were originally made in the U.S. state of Indiana.
Where the Name Hoosier Cabinet Comes From
There is also a debate about exactly where the name "Hoosier" came from regarding these cabinets. Some experts say they were named Hoosier cabinets because they were made in Indiana, which is nicknamed The Hoosier State. Others suggest Indiana-based Hoosier Manufacturing Company came up with the idea for these cabinets, so they were named after the company.
The Purpose of Hoosier Cabinets
Since late 19th and early 20th century kitchens rarely featured enough built-in cabinetry to hold baking supplies and other necessities, the idea of selling freestanding baking cabinets to homemakers came about to solve the problem. 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.
Hoosier Cabinet Manufacturing
Sellers, a company originally based in Elwood, Indiana, is thought to be the first company to make a Hoosier-style cabinet in 1898. Up until the 1930s and 1940s, there were dozens of manufacturers cranking out these massive pieces of essential kitchen furniture. 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, and they were said to save the American housewife 1500 steps every day.
Identifying an Authentic Antique Hoosier-Style Cabinet
Hoosier cabinets are so popular among antique collectors and vintage kitchenware enthusiasts that reproductions abound. If you're shopping for an authentic antique or need help identifying your piece of antique furniture, keep a few tips in mind.
Verify The Hoosier Style
Depending on the manufacturer, the era, and the options purchased, there's quite a bit of variation in the design of antique baking cabinets.
- A classic Hoosier-style cabinet was six feet tall by four feet wide and about two feet deep.
- Antique Hoosier cabinets were mostly made of oak, but could also be made of pine, or in later years - enamel.
- 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.
- Some drawers are lined with tin.
- There should be built-in accessory pieces like a flour sifter, spice rack, or dish rack.
Hoosier Cabinet Accessories
Many collectors feel 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 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
Find the Manufacturer's Mark
Antique Hoosier cabinet manufacturers would mark all their products in specific ways with a stamp, on a paper tag, or on a metal tag. If you can find this information, you can easily identify and value your piece.
- The maker's mark would be placed somewhere out of sight, so look on the back or bottom of the cabinet and inside the doors.
- Some companies really hid their marks, like Hoosier who put an "H" on their door fasteners.
- The mark could include the company name, a logo, a date, a patent number, or some combination of these pieces of information.
- 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.
Popular Hoosier Cabinet Manufacturers
As mentioned, most big Hoosier-style cabinet manufacturers were based out of Indiana. These were some of the biggest competitors in the early 1900s:
- Boone Kitchen Cabinet
- Coppes Napanee
- Diamond Kitchen Cabinets
- Hoosier Manufacturing Company
- Kitchen Maid
Antique Hoosier Cabinet Values
The value of a Hoosier cabinet is determined largely by the condition of the piece and the presence of the original accessories.
- While all-wood examples in perfect condition can fetch nearly $2,000, those requiring some restoration work may cost as little as $200.
- In 2020, this oak Sellers Hoosier cabinet in good condition sold on eBay for $850.
- Also in 2020, a Hoosier cabinet with no manufacturer identified, but that appears to have all the original accessories sold for $1,500 on eBay.
Where to Buy and Sell Old Hoosier Cabinets
You can purchase Hoosier-style cabinets at antique stores, flea markets, auctions, and estate sales. Local purchasing may be more cost-effective than buying from far-away sellers over the Internet. If you do buy online, check shipping costs first to make sure they are affordable.
- Craigslist is 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.
- You can find a variety of Hoosier-style baking cabinets on eBay along with authentic parts to restore baking cabinets from every era and manufacturer.
- 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 (you'll find both restored and unrestored options) and accessories.
- 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.
The Invaluable Hoosier Cabinet
Their many practical uses and classic beauty make Hoosier-style cabinets a hot collector's 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 or the perfect home for your Hoosier cabinet.