Photos of Old Kitchens from 1860 to 1970

The notion of a ‘kitchen’ as we know it today came about due to a book by the Beecher sisters, Catherine and her sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe. In 1869, the two sisters published a revised version of The American Woman’s Home.

Among its many ideas was an initial layout for a kitchen as well as a set of sketches as to how various goods and ingredients could be efficiently stored. Catharine Beecher’s design for the kitchen was a revolutionary concept at the time, but didn’t take hold for many years to come, however!

The Stove as the Center of Everything

These photos show how the cast iron stove, with cast iron kettles, pans, etc. on the side, became the center of what would eventually become known as the kitchen.

1896. Residence of James Ballantyne, Main Street in Ottawa. Here the sitting area has already been separated and some primitive storage of ingredients and kitchen tools already has their own space.

1890. Niagara Stove Co Stove set up in the kitchen. This photo marks the first time we see a stove set against a wall with the pipe going up along it. From a dual cooking / heating source, the stove morphed to something reserved only for cooking.

1910. This photo shows the inner workings of a stove, which evolved quite a bit around this time.

The Kitchen Becomes a ‘Thing’

As more homes installed stoves and had access to running water and electricity, people began spending more time in the kitchen, so a place for the growing bounty of utensils, ingredients, and kitchen wares was needed.

1900. This photo shows the lady of the house enjoying her new stove.

1900. An early cabinet that was built to keep the kitchen stuff organized; the surface can be used to mix, cut, and prepare the food.

1900.Another version of an early cabinet with a larger space for actually spending time in the kitchen. The room even has a rocking chair. And so the ‘kitchen’ started becoming its own room and new houses all had one built.

Bring on the Efficiency: Introducing the Hoosier Cabinet

In 1899, the Hoosier Cabinet Company came up with the idea of putting all cooking essentials in to one standalone cabinet that could be placed next to a stove and sink.

An early ad for the Hoosier Cabinet advertises how the cabinet saves miles of steps that were formerly between the barn, pantry, shed, and well.

Though there are few remaining cabinets from those early days of the Hoosier Cabinet Company, these photos below give you a sense of what some of the early models looked like.

The Hoosier cabinets evolved quickly over the years. In this ad, the cabinets are seen with pre-installed containers and recipes in the doors!

Moving Toward Integrated Efficiency

Before the Hoosiers reached mass adoption, several companies came together to promote an idea of an integrated, efficient kitchen. The next two photos below from the 1906 edition of Craftsman Magazine show a view of a model kitchen.

1906. Here’s one side of a model kitchen where the large sink and preparation area is set up with some basic storage above it. During this time, the sink was typically a large porcelain monster. This is why we have the phrase “Everything but the Kitchen Sink!” because it was such a heavy monstrosity.

1906.Shown here are the cooking area and pot / pan storage. This picture gives you a great sense of why the Hoosier cabinet was adopted so well – it was a total eyesore to have all those pots and pans hanging from ceilings and shelves!

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