If you are like me, you love vintage kitchens! Many of you might even remember the aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in Grandma’s kitchen – linoleum flooring, steel cabinets, porcelain sink and drainboard, and a white gas stove to bake those sweet treats.
History of Steel Cabinets
Steel kitchen cabinets were extremely popular in the 1950s. During WWII, Rosie the Riveter had ramped up steel production significantly in order to produce weaponry. When the war ended, the outfitted factories continued to produce steel, but now automobiles, appliances, building construction and, you got it, kitchen cabinets, were cranked out. Although I’ve never come across one, even decades before the war, steel Hoosiers were produced as “vermin proof” cabinetry. Sadly, the war’s scrap drives most likely contributed to the extinction of these old steel Hoosier cabinets.
But those of you who have followed OHU50K for a while, know that several of the homes we feature still have their late 1940s, early 1950s steel kitchen cabinetry intact.
During the height of their popularity, Youngstown, Geneva and Saint Charles were arguably the biggest names in steel cabinetry. Initially, white was the most popular color, symbolizing cleanliness and a sanitary cooking environment.
Made in Youngstown, Ohio, Youngstown kitchens were the biggest sellers. Homeowners often started out with just the single sink unit, then added on as space and money allowed. You can tell it’s a Youngstown by the unit’s distinctive pull, and in later years by the red emblem on the sink. American Standard eventually bought out the brand.
Early Geneva steel cabinets were notable for their distinctive chrome pulls. They were recessed with small plastic inserts behind them. With age these plastic pieces became yellow, brittle and eventually snapped. The pulls were later replaced with more durable pulls, and a range of colors came on the market.
Saint Charles steel kitchens are usually considered the cream of the crop. These high quality cabinets also were in production longer than Youngstown and Geneva, being made well into the early 2000s. Like Geneva, Saint Charles cabinetry came in a wide range of colors.
Steel kitchen cabinets were meant to last. If you find a house with one of these fabulous kitchens, keep it and cherish it.