The origin of the “Hoosier” cabinet can be traced back to the bakers cabinets that were used in the late 1800’s.  These cabinets consisted of a kitchen table with drawers and two large possum belly bins for flour and meal that sat on the floor.  The upper cabinet in a baker’s cabinet included 2 doors for storing dishes and utensils.
These cabinets eventually evolved into “Hoosier” cabinets.  The lower section was replaced with a door on one side for storage.  There were multiple drawers on the other side which included a metal bread drawer and utensil drawers. The upper cabinet was further divided for more storage and usually included a more sanitary top loading, sugar bin and a flour bin with built in sifter.  They also added a pull out work surface, giving the women an extra eleven inches of work space, as well as, sliding shelves, making it easier to access items out of the back part of the lower cupboard.
The Hoosier Cabinets introduced a lot of other new bells and whistles:  racks for storing dishes and spice jars, meal planning cards, bill hooks, money trays, rolling pin brackets, food grinder brackets, cookbook holders, and many were on casters so they could be moved to clean around.
The Hoosier legacy includes more than just an efficient cabinet making company though.  They are one of the leaders in manufacturing, distribution, advertising and payment plans.  


The company went from employing twelve to fifteen men who could make fifty to sixty cabinets a week to more than seven hundred men in the factory, averaging production of seven hundred cabinets a day.  This change was mostly due to hiring Harry Hall in 1903.  He standardized the line so that doors, drawers and hardware were interchangeable.  He also brought in the concept of the assembly line.  The cabinets were progressively assembled with each workman performing a single operation.  By 1920 The Hoosier Co had sold over two million cabinets.  


During a time where efficiency in the workplace became a focus, so did efficiency in the home.  The Hoosier Co must have realized this was a great selling feature to both the husbands and the wives.  Several advertisements showed a woman as an “efficiency expert” using a stopwatch and a pedometer to show how many steps were needed to prepare three simple meals.  Hence, the “Hoosier Saves Steps” ad campaign. 


They were the first furniture manufacturer to advertise in national magazines.  The firm’s advertising budget ran $200,000-$250,000 some years. The company ran ads in the Post, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and even a two-page color ad appearing in the Saturday Evening Post.  This cost the company $25,000. These ads provided customers with countless examples of how much time the cabinet could save them.   


The Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet Co. is said to be the first in the nation to offer a time-payment plan. For just $1 a week, a homemaker could have a new cabinet. Total retail cost was $49.50 in 1918, so in a year’s time, you could have it paid off.


      Entire industries sprung up to accessorize the Hoosier Cabinets.  One example is the Sneath Glass Company that made custom glassware for the Hoosiers.  Original sets included coffee and tea canisters, a salt box, and four to eight spice jars.
Another example is little known, McCormick Brothers Co. from Albany, IN.  Around 1908 they started producing the metal accessories for free standing kitchen cabinets.  Among a few of the items they produced were: bread drawers, flours bins with sifters, sugar bins, side brackets, wire shelves, spice racks, vegetable baskets, and pan and lid racks.  


What is a “Hoosier Cabinet”

         It was a kitchen workstation with ingredient and equipment storage where all food preparation could be completed without moving.
In modern times the term “Hoosier” cabinet is used rather loosely to refer to all free-standing kitchen cabinets made from the turn of the century to the mid 1930s.  These cabinets typically have work tops,
roll doors, and built in flour sifters that would hold 50 pounds or more flour.  Many of the cabinets were also equipped with bread drawers, spice jars, bread boards, and countless other features.  The cabinets were designed to provide housewives with a “modern, efficient kitchen.”
In addition to providing counter space, the cabinets stored pots and pans, cooking utensils, dishes, and many of the staple items found in most kitchens.  It is hard to imagine how our mothers or grandmothers managed their kitchens with so little space when compared to today’s modern kitchens where space is often measured in tens of feet instead of inches.  


By the turn of the century there were more than 40 different manufacturers making 40 different models a year.  With the “Big 6” being Hoosier, Sellers, McDougall, Napanee, Boone, and Wilson, all hailing from Indiana, the term “Hoosier Cabinet” name became generic for all the stand alone kitchen work stations of the time.      



 The Sellers Co was founded in Kokomo, IN but after a fire moved to Elwood, IN.  Automatic lowering flour bin, glass drawer pulls, and ant-proof casters were just a few of the finishing touches the Sellers Cabinets offered. 



        The McDougal Company was started in Indianapolis, IN, after a fire in 1909 they moved the factory to Frankfort, IN. The McDougall cabinets had a roll door that dropped down to open instead of rolling up. They also had the first flour bins with a glass front so you could see how much flour was in the bin.
The Coppes Brothers and Zook from Napanee, IN created ads with charts showing the steps saved per meal/per day.  Three meals took 2,113 steps.  By combining the storage functions of the pantry and the work table, 1,592 steps could be saved using the cabinet.  They even went so far as to have Harrington Emerson, “The Father of Efficiency Engineers” write a statement to include in their ads.  Right before the depression, they started manufacturing built-in kitchen cabinets, and continued for many years after the Hoosier Cabinets sales dropped off.  



     Boone Kitchen Cabinets were named after the county they were located in, in Lebanon, IN.  Kennedy Hardware is currently located in Boone County, IN.  Their advertising claim was that their cabinets were designed and named by women.  The Mary Boone, Bertha Boone, and Betty Boone.
Wilson cabinets typically had glass front cabinet doors etched with a beautiful diamond pattern.  These cabinets were sold by Sears, Roebuck and Company and were available as mail order items.  


Restoring a Hoosier Style Cabinet

     Kennedy Hardware is your “Hoosier” specialist.  While many things can be lost to time, Kennedy Hardware is still the authority and purveyor of more Hoosier parts than anywhere else in the world. With bread drawers made on original machines and handmade tambour doors, we do everything we can to keep your cabinet authentic, and, many of our exclusive items can provide the finishing touches to your cabinet.
Some finishing touches Kennedy Hardware can offer:  ant traps we punch from original dies, door charts printed off of originals,
billhooksfood grinrder block attachments, and cookbook holders are all handmade in our shop. These simple additions will help personalize your “Hoosier”.
If you ever have a question regarding restoration or you want more information on your cabinet feel free to email us or give us a call and one of our experts will gladly assist you in your journey.   


If you would like to know more about “Hoosier” cabinets and the biggest manufacturers you should check out the best selling book by Phillip Kennedy, “Hoosier Cabinets”.  This book is a great source for information, restoring tips, and can even help identify some cabinets.