Historic Kitchens

Authentic historic kitchens are from one time period, so next season you won’t be updating your kitchen to keep it in style. Your mind will not be forever reaching for the next look. You’ll find this mind-set is a money-saver, and an asthetic delight. If you’ve been graced with original cabinetry, keep them. Often early cabinets do not contain chipboard, and have a solid structure. To duplicate mid-1800s up to the 1930s: a baker’s table or hoosier-style cabinet, an antique butcher block, a farm table, some open shelves, and, if you really want to commit, a wood-burning stove or vintage gas stove.

  • Electric stove: 1920s to 1950s.
  • Vintage gas stove: early 1900s to 1950s
  • Wood-burning stove: Early-1800s to 1930s

1870s Kitchen.
1880s Kitchen.
1890s Kitchen.
1900s Kitchen.
1910s Kitchen.

1930s-1950s, looking mostly to efficiency:

Chafing Dish

by Rena

Cooking with a chafing dish is ancient, but was popular in America, beginning c. 1880s — considered fashionable on dining tables, and a necessity in dorm rooms. First heated with a fueled wick, they became electrified around the turn-of-the-century. Here is a postal stamp depicting a fashionable c. 1930s couple using an electric chafing dish, now that electricity was available in more homes.

Time to take a trip! Visit one of these Florida historic house museums–obtain new ideas from early kitchens, learn some history, take a walk, help make sugar syrup… click on the blue icons for more information.

View House Museums in a larger map

This family eased into a minimal-electric household… The husband instructs us how to care for our lamps, and a few years ago Lea taped the original tour of their kitchen.

Hoosier-style kitchen cabinets make an historic or farmhouse kitchen. Our first Hoosier-style cabinet was a darling white 1940s-1950s Sears cabinet, very clean, which we sold from Maine to a islander off the coast of California. They just made some shipping arrangement and a man with a truck showed up! It was too big for our newly-designed kitchen. The second Hoosier-style cabinet was a new Amish-made oak cabinet. We loved it, although I do prefer the soul of an antique, well-cleaned. Because the Amish-made cabinet was intergral to the Maine farmhouse kitchen design, we left it for the new owners. So now we have our third hoosier-style cabinet, and even though it is a modest one, it was conveniently being sold at an antique shop nearby for only $129. I love it–it makes the kitchen!

What was the composition of blacking mixture for a wood-burning iron cook stove? I noticed some working museums don’t polish their wood-burning stoves, probably a weekly activity in a Victorian home. What do you think they could use today? …from Google books, at least 10 old formulas. From one of these we should be able to extract a healthy modern-day polish for antique stoves…. List was found in The Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts, Notes and Queries, edited by Albert Allis Hopkin, page 7. If you’d like to purchase an antique wood-burning stove, see local suppliers around the country, or shop eBay for a

Blacking; and Polishes for Stoves.— Graphite (often misnamed black-lead) is the foundation ingredient in a stove polish. Lampblack is frequently added to deepen the color, but the latter form of carbon is of course more readily burned off than the former.

The powder variety of stove polish is merely purified and ground graphite, with or without the addition of lampblack, which is applied to the stove by being first mixed with a little water.

The paste is made by the addition of glycerine or paraffine oil to the powder.

10 Historic Formulas for Stove Blacking (continued) — >


by Rena

Fabrics.net posted an excellent visual history of the tablecloth, Victorian-era to 1950s mid-century modern.

Wendi Dunlap was researching historic kitchens to redesign her kitchen more authentically in her Arts & Crafts bungalow home. She shared her research of kitchen images from c. 1905 to 1925 so we can all benefit. You’ll love it. She also linked to another great historic kitchen image site, shorpy, with their funny post:

Speaking as someone who needs to go lie down after microwaving a bag of broccoli, just looking at all this [1921] food preparation makes me dizzy with fatigue.