Document Center / Hoosier Kitchen Cabinets - An unforgettable impact (2024)

Document Center / Hoosier Kitchen Cabinets - An unforgettable impact (1)

The Hoosier Manufacturing Co. was founded by J.S. McQuinn (far left) and his son, Emmett G. Photos courtesy Doug Magers and the book "New Castle: A Pictorial History" by G. Bradley Publishing.

Historically Speaking

"Kitchen pianos."
"Cupboards with brains."
"Scientific pantries."

These are just a few of the names used to describe what was a modern marvel for housewives across America in the early 1900s - the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet.

For 40 years, some four million free-standing Hoosier Kitchen cabinets were made. By 1921, one in 10 U.S. homes had a Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet.

And to think, they were made right here in New Castle.

Today, they are collector's items and the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet has a permanent place in the Henry County history book.

New Castle's good fortune started with a tragic fire. In 1900, fire destroyed James S. McQuinn's Albany, Ind., factory.

"Well, I guess it's all over now," son Emmett McQuinn said.

"No, it isn't all over," J.S. McQuinn replied. "We are just now getting a good start. This simply means that we will go to New Castle or some other place and go at it right."

The McQuinns headed to New Castle, where a $2,000 incentive was waiting for him.

"We were then driven way out to Lewisville Pike to see the Speeder Cycle Company's factory. As some of the citizens said at the time, 'it was located clear out beyond the old fairgrounds' and it did look like it was an awfully long ways from town. At that time, there were no sidewalks south of Circle Street and all land east of the road was farm land.

"We were sure we wanted to locate in New Castle but the matter was still undecided. He and I finally concluded we would take one long chance that the deal would go through all right and that New Castle would be our new home."

The McQuinns were anxious to run a national advertisem*nt, but when asked what address to put in the ad, they weren't sure.

The old bicycle plant they were taking over was located on what was then known as Lewisville Pike. But the McQuinns didn't know that at the time.

"Well, we sent the ad in and gave the address of the company as 1200 South 14th St., New Castle, Ind. At that time, there was no 14th Street in New Castle, but 14th sounded as good to us as anything, so we used it. Some five or six years after we came here, the town board re-named the streets and Lewisville Pike became 14th Street."

The Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet legacy includes far more than just naming a street, however.

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

-- Peak employment included 700 men and women working at the factory; 40 to 50 traveling salesmen; an office staff of 60 to 70.

-- During peak years, nearly 700 cabinets a day were produced. At one time, Hoosier was the largest manufacturer of kitchen cabinets in the U.S.

Interestingly, the cabinets began as sort of a side venture for the McQuinns, who started their business producing seed separators but started to make Hoosiers during the winter months to keep workers busy.

But the seeds of this new item spread faster than seed separator orders came in and a phenomenon was born.

As the years went by, Hoosier Kitchen Cabinets kept getting better and better. Features included flour bins with sifters, lined silver drawers, rust proof and - more importantly - mouse-proof cake drawers, mesh vegetable bins, pan racks, cookbook holders, glass spice jars and sugar bins.

Later models also included:

-- Pencil holder by flour bin

-- Clock-faced shopping list

-- File for grocery bills

-- Money tray

Like many things, changing times ultimately ended the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet's rein of popularity. The late Betty O'Neal Giboney, a staff writer at The Courier-Times for more than 50 years, wrote:

"During the 1930s, wall cabinets had been introduced. Developers of apartment buildings which could place huge orders began using stationary wall cabinets, just as private homes were doing. Workers were changing, too, and they were becoming restless over wages. A strike was called. The elder McQuinn had died and his son was in charge. With no stomach for a labor dispute, E.Q. McQuinn sold the business in 1942 and it was subsequently liquidated by the purchasers. During World War II, the buildings were used as government warehouses."

But while the production ceased, the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet lives on as true collector's items. An advertisem*nt in The Saturday Evening Post said it all:

"I too have abolished slavery," the headline read. The copy read: "Drudgery has ceased to be their master. With its many features and labor-saving inventions, the Hoosier has made their kitchen work easy and enjoyable."

Hoosier Kitchen Cabinets are on display at The Henry County Historical Society museum. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. each day. For more information, call 529-4028 or visit

Document Center / Hoosier Kitchen Cabinets - An unforgettable impact (2024)


What is the value of a Hoosier cabinet? ›

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.

How can you tell how old a Hoosier cabinet is? ›

It is difficult to identify the exact date of a Hoosier cabinet manufactured by Coppes Napanee and there are no hard and fast rules to apply. However, the type of finish, metal ID tag, how it was assembled, and the style of the flour bin will give you some clues.

When did they stop making Hoosier cabinets? ›

They peaked in popularity in the 1920s, then declined as homes began to be constructed with built-in kitchen cabinets and counter tops. The Hoosier Manufacturing Company was sold in 1942 and liquidated. Today, Hoosier cabinets are valued by antique collectors.

What kind of wood were Hoosier cabinets made of? ›

The majority of Hoosier Cabinets were made with oak. However, due to oak's scarcity in the late 1940's, manufacturers used any type of solid wood they could find. Often two or more wood species were used to manufacture a single cabinet, and many of these cabinets were painted to hide the varying wood spices used.

What is the most expensive type of cabinet? ›

The cost of high-end kitchen cabinets can vary depending on the materials, design, and brand. Some of the most expensive kitchen cabinet woods include walnut, rift-cut white oak, cherry, and rustic alder. Custom cabinets are also the most expensive option, with prices ranging from $300 to $750 per linear foot.

What cabinets are the most expensive? ›

Custom cabinets are the most expensive and the price varies according to the style and design you choose. As the name indicates, custom cabinets are built to your specifications and you can add as many embellishments and accents as you want, assuming you want to pay for it.

Why do they call it a Hoosier cabinet? ›

The cabinet got its name because most of them were made in Indiana. The first Hoosier cabinets appeared in 1898, created by a furniture company called Sellers, in New Castle, Indiana. Popularity of the cabinet grew up until the late 1940's when the records for the cabinets became scarce.

Are Hoosier cabinets still made? ›

The Hoosier Cabinet Era

and G.I. Sellers and Sons, were closed in 1942 and 1950 respectively, making Coppes Napanee the only manufacturer of Hoosier Cabinets still in operation today.

What is another name for the Hoosier cabinet? ›

"Cupboards with brains." "Scientific pantries." These are just a few of the names used to describe what was a modern marvel for housewives across America in the early 1900s - the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet. For 40 years, some four million free-standing Hoosier Kitchen cabinets were made.

What are people from Indiana called? ›

For well over a century and a half the people of Indiana have been called Hoosiers.

Are Hoosier cabinets two pieces? ›

A true Hoosier cabinet consists of two pieces – a top and a deeper bottom. The bottom typically has several drawers for organization, with a tin-lined drawer to keep bread fresh, and at least one large cabinet for dishes and storage. The table-like top would pull out, made of wood, tin or porcelain enamel.

What's the meaning of Hoosier? ›

HOOSIER - pronounced hoo'zher - is an inhabitant or native of Indiana, and the name of our National Forest. No one is quite sure where the term originated for sure, but there are five primary theories. Sam Hoosier's Riverboat Men. Robert Hoosier's National Road crew. Indiana was a land of rowdies.

What is a Hoosier jar? ›

The Hoosier Jar is hand blown with a ground lip Mason shoulder seal and glass screw cap with three lugs on the inside. The cap is typically embossed 'PATD SEPT 12TH 1882 JAN 3D 1883' in a circle on an outer ring and 'HOOSIER (arch) JAR' (inverted arch) in an inner circle.

Where can I use a Hoosier cabinet? ›

Hoosier cabinets don't work only in vintage or farmhouse-style kitchens. They can also mix well with other furniture genres, as seen here in this more modern dining room. However, I wouldn't expect to see a Hoosier cabinet venture too far from the kitchen or dining room.

How can you tell if a cabinet is antique? ›

Condition of the Wood

A few signs that furniture is newer include consistent color, lack of patina, machine-cut moldings/carvings, and modern screws or nails. Things like mortise-and-tenon joints, wood pegs, hand-cut dovetails, and rose head nails are typically found in antique furniture.

What is the most expensive antique cabinet? ›

The Badminton Chest $36.7 Million

The most expensive piece of furniture, this badminton cabinet features amethyst quartz, apart from other precious stones. This masterpiece was created by thirty designers and the process took them six years.

Is my cabinet an antique? ›

How can I tell if a cabinet is antique? Understand the items materials, craftsmanship, and style period first. Look underneath the piece for a company stamp/branding or a production number or country name in which it was manufactured. Look at the type of wood and whether it is solid wood.

How much is cabinet by foot? ›

Pricing wise, they're listed in order—stock cabinets are cheapest, at around $60 to $200 per linear foot, semi-custom cabinets will run you around $100 to $650 per linear foot, and custom cabinets usually cost between $500 and $1,200 per linear foot.

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