Vintage 1941 Montgomery Ward metal kitchen cabinets

vintage-1941-montgomery-ward-kitchenVINTAGE EYE CANDY today — a complete catalog of steel kitchen cabinets from Montgomery Ward, circa 1941. You can see from this brochure, how much simpler kitchens were in the pre-war era. Of course, we were still in recovery from the Great Depression. Even a kitchen like this — which would seem so basic today — would have been immensely luxurious in 1941.

Here we see again, how an average housewife of the era may only have been able to afford and purchase the  sink cabinet alone, with its porcelain-enamel-on-cast-iron drainboard sink-top… While the catalog is presumably about the full range of cabinets, it is principally marketing the “Modern Cabinet Sink.”  This would be the first piece a homemaker would buy — she would then integrate this into her farmhouse kitchen – which may have had homemade wood cabinets or not, or into her apartment kitchen to replace the old wall-hung kitchen sink. She could buy the rest of the pieces later. What a move forward: Built-ins, made in a material, steel, that was “vermin-free.”  Oh, also notice the stainless steel drainboard sink on p. 4 – a look you can replicate with Elkay aluminum drainboard sinks today.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m about to start planning a 1949 kitchen reno. We have to rip out the old wooden cupboards to insulate in front of the structural walls because we’ve had problems with water pipes freezing. This series will be helpful as I’m planning a 1949 inspired kitchen to blend with the rest of our bungalow!

    • pam kueber says

      Good luck with your project, Maureen – sounds like a big one. I scan for relaxation – so I’ll see if I can dig up more kitchens from 1949 for you!

  2. Robert says

    I miss Monkey Wards.

    One time my mom gave me some advice, as we really didn’t purchase much there. She said, “Once in a few years there you get a little surprise and actually find something you want/need.”

    How true—-all the memories

  3. St. Christopher says

    I really like the stainless trim pieces that integrate the drainboard sink with the counter top on each side. It’s a subtle feature but the devil is in the details, eh? I do not so much like the split up counter top. I get the whole “buy a piece at a time” set up and it’s a wonderful idea, but this would drive me nuts.

    Chris.

  4. fjp says

    This looks for all the world like the same concept as the IKEA modular kitchen systems, right down to the half-moon shelves capping off a run of upper cabinets, just all rendered in metal instead of laminated particleboard. Some of the “design your own kitchen” advertising even reminds me of IKEA adverts. I do agree that having the counter top in sections is the most questionable part of this setup. I would think every one of those joints is a haven for dirt and food particles and a constant hassle to clean.

    • pam kueber says

      fjp — regarding the countertop: this set up, with the steel casings connecting the countertop pieces all along the run, is very very common in the 40s and into the early 50s. I will have to do some more research on this … as I know that I have seen materials in my stash that explain the countertops … but I believe the answer may be along these lines: The countertop material is a form of lineoleum. But it is not just smacked onto a piece of plywood like we do today with laminate. It is actually melded to other substrate materials for strength and durability. I am betting that also in those days it was just not practical to order a complete run all cut to fit. So the countertops were made in sections to fit each cabinet – then pieced together on site. I think that these things are really really durable. I’ve seen some still in existence today. Some of them also have curved integrated backsplashes also with steel pieces. They are actually quite the engineering marvel – reflecting the actuality of the techology available at the time.

      • Heidi says

        My kitchen looks just like this right down to the black counter top with the steel trim on the pieces.
        I am on the hunt for replacement glass doors to replace the broken one on my upper wall cabinet.
        Also since my counter tops are in rough shape and were like that when I got my house, I would dearly love to find a way to replace them with yellow counter tops.
        thanks

  5. says

    Like so many great posts of yours, this one makes me long to change my own kitchen….once again! The particular details I long for? The black baseboard that is always underneath vintage cabinets; it makes the cabinets feel like they’re floating. Also, the ever-present dark flooring. My floor is already b/w Armstrong checker; I love it, but I notice those 40’s kitchens have dark cork or brown or black floors; contrasting with the white or bright cabinets is really stunning. Oh, now you’ve got me started again!

    • pam kueber says

      Barclay, I think that during the war there actually were constraints on the availability of “colors.” Also, prewar, the economy was still very slow — no happy go lucky pastels. However, we did see rich streamline and deco colors – 40s Hollywood glamour colors.

  6. says

    I have a Montgomery Ward red sink cabinet with homemade planked wooden cabinets recycled from an old chicken coop I’m told from a family member whose parents owned the place. All still work fine although the cabinets are a little warped.

  7. tim says

    I am looking for handles for a metal sink, they are shaped like torpedos or fins and set flat on the drawer surface, no arch or opening in the middle, missing one, they were chrome.

  8. says

    We are the proud owners of a vintage kitchen with great steel cabinets. The cabinets are in remarkable condition for their age and are still fully functional. There are no stickers on any of the cabinets to indicate the brand but there is a stamp on the upper part of the insides of the lower cabinets that say Hamilton 1941. The cabinets look a lot like these Montgomery Ward cabinets and I am always scouring the Chicago CL for some more cabinets to add to our kitchen. Does anyone have any advice about locating more of these cabinets and caring for them? Ours look pretty good but do have some rust spots. Can they be spray painted? And does anyone have any advice about adding a dishwasher to a vintage kitchen without ruining the overall look and feel of the kitchen? Thanks!

    • pam kueber says

      Chicagoish — you need to head on over to our Forum, which focuses on buying/selling vintage steel kitchen cabinets: http://retrorenovation.com/forum/

      Regarding spray painting, this is not a DIY site, but if you go to Browse by Category: Kitchens / Steel Kitchen Cabinets, you can read about some readers and their experiences. Good luck.

    • Barbara says

      My now-ex and I bought an old house back in the 1990s that had these exact cabinets. They were very scratched and stained, so I used several cans of rustoleum to repaint them. The floors were the old linoleum, much like in the picture, but with more obvious reds and blues. I painted the cabinets in a navy blue. It took several coats, but actually looked very nice when it was done. (The countertops had already been redone in a lighter color.)

  9. rick says

    I would like to locate a 2 hdle ,7″ kitchen faucet that sits on top of the old metal cabinet sink . can you suggest a site or manufacturer? (even reconditoned is ok)

  10. Shamira says

    We are looking at buying a house built in 1935. The kitchen has been updated with ugly wood cabinets (stained) and laminate butcher block countertops (blech!). We like everything about the house except the kitchen and bathroom (also updated badly). I want to replace the kitchen cabinets with metal cabinets and crackled ice countertops with metal edging. I also plan to purchase a table with the same crackled ice top and metal edging. I don’t have to have vintage cabinets. Can you advise me on where to buy new if I cannot find vintage available near me? I would be willing to drive up to 4 hours one way to pick up vintage cabinets in good condition. Also, I love the sink cabinet pictured above and know where I can buy the sink, but would need to find the correct size cabinet to put it in. Any help is appreciated.

  11. Larry Schwarz says

    I aquired a Montgomery Ward model 25 SMR 214 metal kitchen. It is 66 inches wide with a porcelin double sink top. It has 4 drawers on the right side, and a drawer & door on the left. Double doors under the sink. Does anyone know the year of this unit and it’s value? All drawers and the pull-out shelf work well. There are some chips on the porcelin, but no dents on the front.

  12. Lorna Martinez-Garcia says

    My Mom’s house is over 100 years old, she has owned it for about 60 of those years. She put the double sink-double drainboard model way back when. I have been looking to replace this unit, but can’t seem to find anything reasonable within 50 miles of where we live. Any suggestions?

    San Bernardino, CA

  13. Megan&Brian Chapman says

    Our house was built in 1957 and so we have one VERY similar to these… we are trying to sell ours. We have the upper cabinets that match the lower cabinets with sink and there is only one scratch in the enamel. We are located in the midwest.

  14. Chelsey B says

    I recently bought a house with these exact cabinets in the kitchen. Of course I’m thrilled and want to keep them. But.. the people who lived here before pulled some of the handles off then painted the other ones and made them awful. I just want to replace all the handles and paint the cabinets. But I have no idea where to find just the handles.

    • pam kueber says

      I don’t know the answer to this one. May be a needle in a haystack. Restore the ones you have. Take careful measurements and then scan the internet to see if you can find a match — you can start by checking some of the various resources we’ve found in our Kitchen Help / Cabinet Hardware category/subcategory.

      Also use your detailed measurments to watch ebay like a hawk.

  15. Kendric Holder says

    I have a vintage Montgomery Ward steel kitchen cabinet. I have the model number and style number. I would like to find out if this piece had an original top (which it no longer has if it ever did). Can anyone help me with this situation because I can’t really find anything on the Internet.

  16. Kenneth Sloan says

    The cabinets are nice looking, very clean lines, but enamel on steet cabinets are prone to denting, rust and yellow wish age. Also, dirt and food particles can get caught in the seems between the cabinets.

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