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.

Besides an eBay countdown for a vintage electric stove, the above video has a shortened history of electric cook stoves, or what people in the early 1900s would call “cooking with wire.”

The electric motor was invented in 1837, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the improved motor found its way into the kitchen.

There was a patent awarded in 1859 for an electric cooking device, and there were a number of electric ovens invented in the 1890s, but none of these became commercially viable. In 1906 there were about 50 electric stoves produced in Australia, but they too weren’t a commercially success.

1915 hotplate.

Electric hotplate, photo published in 1915.

Freestanding hotplates were the first electric stoves, slowly coming on the market circa 1906-1908; many advertisements appeared in 1911. Above is a picture of an early electric hotplate “stove” patented in 1914. One of the first electric ovens, modeled after the fireless cookers of the time, was invented in 1909 by Lloyd Copeman near Detroit. The ovens were slow in selling, so Copeman sold his company to Westinghouse between 1914-1917. Westinghouse is also said to have invented the toaster oven in 1910. Another early electric stove, circa 1910, had an oven with what looked like hotplates attached to the top surface.

Automatic oven controls were invented in 1915 and installed in most electric stoves in the 1920s. Before then the cook would shut the oven on and off to regulate oven temperature. In the mid-1920s a clock-timer was added to some electric stoves to automatically turn on and shut off the stove at specified times to cook meals while away from the stove.

Because not all homes were wired for electricity, electric stoves weren’t in common use until the 1930s. The microwave oven was invented in 1945, but it wasn’t until 1967 that the countertop version was available for the home. Self-cleaning electric ovens were first available in 1963, and the electric bread machine in 1992.

The first electric toaster was invented in 1872, but its distribution was limited to England. The first commercially successful electric toaster was invented in 1909, and may have been one of the more popular electric kitchen gadgets. The pop-up toaster was invented in 1919 but waited until the Toastmaster 1926 to be introduced to the marketplace. The Marshmallow Toaster was invented in 1920.

The first electric refrigerator was invented in 1872, but not for home use. The first electric refrigerator for the home was a plumbed unit perched on top of the old icebox, invented in 1913 and introduced in 1916. The electric refrigeration unit before 1925 was made to retrofit the existing icebox. The hermetically-sealed standalone refrigerator was invented in 1925, at the same time that refrigerators were being made of steel and porcelain cabinets. The first refrigerator that was widely used was the GE “Monitor-Top” released to the market in 1927, but the mass production of electric refrigerators didn’t really begin until 1945.

By 1914 the electric percolator was proudly being used in wired homes, and the first automated electric percolator was introduced in 1952. It wasn’t until Mr. Coffee arrived in 1972 that the drip process was automated and there was a built-in automatic cut-off control.

Grinding, Mixing and Blending
The electric coffee grinder was one of the first electric appliances in the kitchen, being introduced in the 1890s. Although there was a patent for a food mixer in the 1885, the stand mixer was the first to be widely available for the home. The first stand mixer was invented c. 1920 for commercial soda fountains, and within a few years the stand mixer was available for the home, along with the electric blender which was invented in 1922.

Most of us have a great appreciation for many of the electric conveniences in the kitchen, particularly the electric dishwasher because it saves so much time. Blenders are a big help in creating quick, healthy, and refreshing drinks within seconds; and, for certain recipes we thank our lucky stars for the electric mixer! We take these for granted, but electric appliances and gadgets weren’t always here, and are now part of kitchen history.

See the updated list of vintage stove stores.

Great Achievements
Idea Finder
Canada Science and Technology Museum

Kerosene Lamps

by Rena

All about your oil lamps — Part I of III; memorable videos.

American Cookery article from 1920–

“If some fine day, all housewives awoke to the fact that most of the trouble in the world originates in the kitchen, there would shortly be a little more interest in kitchen problems and not so much distaste for and neglect of this important part of the house.

“Of course, women will cry out that we have never in our lives been so intent on just that one subject, kitchens, as we are today.

“I admit that there is a good deal of talk going on which might lead one to believe that vacuum cleaners and electric-washing machines, etc., are to bring about the millennium for housekeepers; and there is also a good work going forward to make of housework a real profession.

“But, until in the average home there comes the feeling that the kitchen—the room itself—is just as much an expression of the family life and aims and ideals as the living room or any other room, we shall be only beating about the bush in our endeavor to find a remedy for some of our perplexing troubles.

“Nowadays, women who are doing much work out in the big world—the so-called “enfranchised” women—are many of them proving that they find housework no detriment to their careers and some even admit that they enjoy it.

“But so far most of them have standardized their work and systematized it, with the mere idea of doing what they have to do “efficiently” and well, with the least expenditure of time and energy. And they have more than succeeded in proving the “drudgery” plea unfounded.

“Now, however, we need something more. We need to make housework attractive; in other words, to put charm in the kitchen.

“There is one very simple way of doing this, that is to make kitchens good to look at, and inviting as a place to stay and work.

“For the professional, scientifically inclined houseworker, the most beautiful kitchen may be the white porcelain one, with cold, snowy cleanliness suggesting sterilized utensils and carefully measured food calories.

“But to the woman whose cooking and dishwashing are just more or less pleasant incidents in a pleasant round of home and social duties, the kitchen must suggest another kind of beauty—not necessarily a beauty which harbors germs, nor makes the work less conveniently done, but a beauty of kindly associations with furniture and arrangements.

“Who could grow fond of a white-tiled floor or a porcelain sink as they exist in so many modern kitchens! And as for the bulgy and top-heavy cook stoves, badly proportioned refrigerators, and kitchen cabinets—well, we should have to like cooking very well indeed before we could feel any pleasure in the mere presence of these necessary but unnecessarily ugly accompaniments to our work.

We have come to think of cleanliness as not only next to godliness, but as something which takes the place of beauty—is beauty.

“This attitude is laziness on our part, for we need sacrifice nothing to utility and convenience, yet may still contrive our kitchen furniture so that it, also, pleases the senses. With a little conscientious reflection on the subject we may make kitchens which have all the charm of the old, combined with all the convenience of the new; and woman will have found a place to reconcile her old and new selves, the housewife and the suffragist, the mother-by-the-fireside and the participator in public affairs. The family will have found a new-old place of reunion—the kitchen!

“Granted then that our tiny house has a kitchen-with-charm, and an “other room,” the rest of the available space may be divided into the requisite number of bed and living rooms, according to the needs of the family.

“There is only one other very important thing to look out for; that is the matter of closets. There is no rule for the number of closets which will make the tiny house livable, but I should say, the more the merrier. If there is ever question of sacrificing a small room and gaining a large closet, by all means do it, for absolute neatness is the saving grace of small quarters, and storage places are essential, if one does not wish to live in a vortex of yesterday’s and tomorrow’s affairs with no room to concentrate on the present.

“Inside and outside the tiny house must conform to one law—elimination of non-essentials; and the person who has a clear idea of his individual needs and has also the strength of will to limit his needs to his circumstances, will find in his tiny house a satisfaction more than compensating for any sacrifices he may have made.”

Visit Jennifer McKendry’s website for pictures of toy miniature kitchens & dining-rooms from the 1880s to 1920s. They’re probably not just for children! Like

Mid-Century Modern Frost-Free Refrigerators

More 1950s refrigerator videos:

From the junk yard to the vintage appliances we love so much. See vintage stove dealers.

Hoosier Daddy

by Rena

hoosier at antique store
Setting up an antique hoosier cabinet: Hoosiers and other hoosier-style kitchen cabinets can be transported easily as they separate into two sections. Here is a picture, right, of the kitchen cabinet for $129 as we found it in the antique shop. We took it home and cleaned the countertop with bleach and repainted the wood, still keeping it white. This vintage kitchen cabinet was missing the flour sifter. Replacement parts can be purchase online, and we found a sifter for $35, new.

You can search on eBay for within a radius of your home to save on shipping. Take this following eBay search result, below, and modify it in eBay’s advanced-search option to your defined radius, or just enjoy the pictures as is….

Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen is at the Smithsonian Museum. See the kitchen and listen to Julia encourage you to make the kitchen a part of your family life. Navigate the link to find descriptions of the Cambridge kitchen items, and stories such as the designing of Julia and Paul Child’s 14 x 20 kitchen.