Do You Own a “Hoosier Cabinet”? Here’s How to Tell
Dealing with a lack of kitchen storage or counter space? No problem! Look no further than what’s called a “Hoosier cabinet.”
Prior to the 1920’s and ‘30’s, most kitchens lacked the cupboards and cabinets that people take for granted today. Cabinets were typically relegated to the butler’s pantry, out of sight of the open kitchen area. These pantries contained a workspace, a few shelves, a sink, and sometimes a stove.
As the women’s movement of the early 1900s began to take hold, women set out to spend less time doing housework and more time pursuing their own interests or leaving the home to work. They were still largely responsible for household duties, however, so an overhaul of residential kitchens was in order to make things more efficient.
The Hoosier cabinet gained popularity in the early 1900s as a way to store the things needed for cooking in one place — a place in easy reach of the stove and sink. It even included a workspace so kitchen tasks could be performed more efficiently. Inspiration for the design is attributed to Catharine Beecher, sister of the famous abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was an advocate for women’s education and improving conditions for housewives.
Once kitchen designs began to include built-in cabinets and cupboards in the 1920s and ‘30’s, Hoosier cabinets became less a functional necessity in the kitchen and shifted to a storage role. But it’s possible you grew up with one in your home and didn’t know it — you may even have one now.
What is a Hoosier cabinet?
A Hoosier cabinet is a self-contained storage and work space that became part of the modern kitchen. Originally designed and marketed by the Hoosier Manufacturing Company in Newcastle, Indiana, their products rose to popularity with models like the Hoosier Highboy, the Hoosier Special, the Golden Oak Cabinet, and the Hoosier Beauty. Hoosier also offered standalone broom closets, cabinet bases, and work tables.
Hoosier cabinets often boasted a flour bin with a built-in sifter. Other features included a sugar bin, spice rack, knife drawer, and a cookbook holder. Some even included a pencil holder, lazy Susan, or bread bin. The enamel, zinc, or wood countertop jutted out past the face of the cabinet to provide more workspace.
As kitchen design evolved to include more cupboards, cabinets, and storage along with countertops, working in the kitchen became more efficient. Women were able to spend less time in the kitchen cooking and were able to pursue other goals and interests — like securing the right to vote in 1920. The movement to add storage space and functionality to kitchens took hold right as the post-World War II housing boom began. In conjunction with the closing of the Hoosier Manufacturing Co., this accelerated the decline of the Hoosier cabinet as a necessity for an efficient kitchen.
Are Hoosier cabinets still made?
While they’re not as mainstream as they once were, Hoosier cabinets are still made in various forms. The Hoosier Manufacturing Co closed in 1942, but the design they pioneered remains popular, though it is more often referred to as a hutch or baker’s rack. They’re used for decorative home or kitchen storage rather than a functional piece of kitchen equipment.