• Monel — rare and wonderful vintage kitchen sink and counter top material

    Monel-sink

    When we looked recently at a 1940 catalog of Whitehead steel kitchen cabinets, we also got a look at Whitehead Monel counter tops and sinks. Whitehead: A very upscale, early steel kitchen — and Monel: A very upscale, metal counter top. And what is this Monel that they speak of? According to the catalog:

    • Monel is an alloy of two-thirds nickel and one third copper with the durability and strength of steel
    • Is rust proof and resistant to all food acids and alkalis using found in a home
    • Is not a coating but a solid metal with nothing to chip, crack or wear off (like the cast iron, porcelain coated sinks that were usually found in kitchens during this era)
    • Can be kept clean with minimal effort
    • Is resilient enough to soften impacts of dishes and reduce breakage
    • Hot pans can be placed on the surface without fear of ruining the counter top

    whitehead kitchen

    Here is what the text says about Whitehead Monel:

    At first glance, it might not seem important to you that Monel is an alloy of two-thirds Nickel and one-third Copper. The fact that this metal has extreme durability with the strength and toughness of steel, may have little significance.

    But . . . when you realize that Monel is also rust-proof and resistant to all food acids and alkalis usually found in a home, it begins to have interesting possibilities.

    And when you also find that Monel is not a coating but a solid metal all the way through — with nothing to chip, crack or wear off, then its advantages in your home become obvious.

    All Whitehead Sinks are made of Monel. And when you realize that your sink performs the hardest job in all your kitchen — then it becomes clear why the Whitehead Sink is exactly suited to the modern work-saving kitchen.

    Monel is practically immune to wear and tear. That’s why it is widely used in railroad dining car kitchens.

    Second, Monel can be kept clean with minimum effort. That’s why such eminent hotels as the Waldorf-Astoria in New York have found it satisfactory for the kitchen.

    Third, the lustre of Monel is as beautiful as old silver — a beauty that never departs because Monel is a solid metal all the way through. Watchcases are now being made of Monel, because of its beauty.

    These are some of the basic reasons why Whitehead selected Monel for sinks and kitchen working surfaces.

    In addition, for your kitchen the Whitehead Monel Sink has further advantages that you’ll find desirable. It is resilient enough to soften the impacts of dishes and to reduce breakage. You can set hot pans on it without fear. And it blend beautifully with any color scheme you may have now — or decide on later.

    For the sink and other working surfaces in your work-saving kitchen, can you imagine a more capable substance, a more work-saving material, than Monel?

    monel

    As a tank liner, too.

    I found this Wikipedia entry. It says that Monel was trademarked in 1906, and it sounds like the company with the trademark is still in business today. The wiki says that Monel is more difficult to machine than steel… and it much more expensive.

    We must keep our eyes peeled to find — and archive photos of — vintage Monel sinks and counter tops in the wild!  I think: Craigslist around New York City might turn some up, if we are eagle-eyed.

    Thanks to archive.org and the MBJ Collection for making this vintage catalog available.

    SeeAllOurVintageCatalogsSMALL

    Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:?

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    Comments

    1. Pretty slick – perhaps this was too early for someone to use a lazy susan in the “dead corner” cabinet. This seems like a very high-end kitchen for the time since they suggested your dealer come out and draft up recommendations and such.

    2. USED IN HOSPITALS. EASIER UPKEEP THAN STAINLESS STEEL. IT DOESN’T SMEAR.

    3. Janet in CT says:

      Pam, you have a typo. In the description, the second time you mention Monel, you typed it with a Y – MoneY. Actually, that is probably accurate as I would bet these were indeed expensive cabinets and countertops! I have been keeping an eye out for them on craigslist in NYC but also should include the Connecticut southwest as alot of wealthy people lived there and may well have purchased those cabinets. Even if the cabinets didn’t survive, maybe the Monel countertops did. Interesting comment that they do not smear like stainless steel. I love articles like this; thank you!

    4. The Guardian Building in Detroit has a large decorative screen made out of Monel. My roommate visited last year and told me all about it. I thought it was funny that it was brought up again on a website that I frequent!

      Interestingly, my roommate also mentioned that Monel was used in safe-making because of its non-corrosive nature, which would allow for tighter tolerances and the ability to actually touch moving parts.

      -Chase

    5. The Guardian Building in Detroit is the largest architectural installation of Monel metal in America as far as my research has gone…perhaps one of the top three or four Art Deco period buildings in the country as well. I have a Monel metal triple sink once installed in a Sander’s candy store in Detroit, now my garage sink….built in drainboards and about 8 feet long. It would remind you of German silver sinks but not as porous, and retains it’s shine when polished, unlike German silver which dulls and more resembles pewter than silver/nickel.

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