...The Vintage Pantry
- Vintage Pantry/History
- Pantry Box
- Hoosier Cabinet
- Vintage Plans
- Famous Pantries
If you found this page, undoubtedly you have a fondness for the pantries of yesteryear.
Ms. Pond, author of "The Pantry talks of the "plentiful simplicity" of the pantry "dependent on what we 'put up' from our own place and not what we purchased at a store." Even if we didn't "put up" the food ourselves, pantries still evoke a feeling of wholesome goodness. Historic pantries, especially, emit a quality of warmth of olden days gone by.
A pantry is a room where food, provisions or dishes are stored and serves in an ancillary capacity to the kitchen. The derivation of the word is from the same source as the Old French term paneterie; that is from pain, the French form of the Latin panis for bread.
In a late medieval hall, there were separate rooms for the various service functions and food storage. A pantry was where bread was kept and food preparation associated with it done. There were similar rooms for storage of bacon and other meats (larder), alcoholic beverages (buttery) known for the "butts" of barrels stored there, and cooking (kitchen).
In America, pantries evolved from Early American "butteries", built in a cold north corner of a Colonial home [more commonly referred to and spelled as "butt'ry"], into a variety of pantries in self-sufficient farmsteads. Butler's pantries, or china pantries, were built between the dining room and kitchen of a middle class English or American home, especially in the latter part of the 19th into the early 20th centuries. Great estates, such as Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina  or Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio  had large warrens of pantries and other domestic "offices", echoing their British 'Great House' counterparts.
A pantry box is considered an antique. Typically, pantry boxes were either oval or round in shape of wood composition with a snug-fitting lid to match. They were the precursor of today's plastic storage bags and containers.
Pantry boxes were perfect for cheeses, round bread loaves, or dried food/staples such as rice, corn, beans, flour, sugar, or salt in the pantries of yesteryear. These handy containers were put to other uses and may have even stored buttons, letters, or other trinkets.
Pantry boxes were popular with the colonial crowd and its practicality carried over into the Victorian Age. Their endearing charm and example of early American fine craftsmanship make them a hot collectible item. Simple, unadorned boxes are as popular as the rarer, painted folk art pantry boxes.
If you are interested in vintage wood boxes, primitive wood boxes, or other collectible kitchen Americana, you may be interested Neat and Tidy: Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early American Households by Nina Fletcher.
A Hoosier cabinet (also known as a "Hoosier") is a type of cupboard popular in the first decades of the twentieth century. Named after the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. of New Castle, Indiana, they were also made by several other companies, most also located in Indiana.
The typical Hoosier cabinet consists of three parts. The base section usually has one large compartment with a slide-out shelf, and several drawers to one side. Generally it sat on small casters. The top portion is shallower and has several smaller compartments with doors, with one of the larger lower compartments having a roll-top or tambour. The top and the bottom are joined by a pair of metal channels which serve as the guide for a sliding countertop, which usually has a pair of shallow drawers affixed to its underside. The whole assembly, with the counter retracted, is fairly shallow, about 2 feet deep; the width and height are generally about 4 feet and 6 feet respectively.
A distinctive feature of the Hoosier cabinet is its accessories. As originally supplied, they were equipped with various racks and other hardware to hold and organize spices and various staples. One particularly distinctive item is the combination flour-bin/sifter, a tin hopper that could be used without having to remove it from the cabinet. A similar sugar bin was also common.
| Special glass jars were manufactured to fit the cabinet and its racks. Original sets of Hoosier glassware consisted of coffee and tea canisters, a salt box, and four to eight spice jars. Some manufacturers also included a cracker jar. One distinctive form was a cylindrical jar with a ring molded around its center, to allow it to rest in the holes of a metal hanging rack.
On the inside of the doors, it was common to have cards with such information as measurement conversions, sample menus, and other household helps.
The Hoosier Manufacturing Co. dates back to 1898 (though some sources claim 1903). Houses of the period were not equipped with built-in cabinetry, and the lack of storage space in the kitchen became acute. Hoosier adapted an existing furniture piece, the baker's cabinet, which had a similar structure of a table top with some cabinets above it (and frequently flour bins beneath). By rearranging the parts and taking advantage of (then) modern metal working, they were able to produce a well-organized, compact cabinet which answered the home cook's needs for storage and working space.
Hoosier cabinets remained popular into the 1920s, but by that time houses began to be built with more modern kitchens with built-in cabinets and other fixtures. Thus supplanted, the hoosier largely disappeared. They remain common on the antique market, however, and are still used as supplemental cabinets.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Burr Oak, Iowa. Laura and her family lived here after leaving Plum Creek. Laura wrote about the pantries of yesteryear in full detail, and today we are fortunate that some of those home sites still exist. In Burr Oak, Laura actually lived in a hotel, where Ma helped cook food for travelers. In the photo on the left, you see the door that goes into the unusual pantry from the kitchen. Directly across from the pantry door, inside, is a pass-through to save steps to the dining room. In the photo on the right, you can see that the pantry is accessible from the outside, also. The drawer on the outside contains silverware for the table settings and you can see where the dining room would be to the right of the photo. Plexiglass covers the doors to preserve historic articles displayed within.