My vintage Republic Steel Kitchen cabinets salesman’s at-home presentation kit — includes rare Easel Presentation — 24 photos

salesman-sample-kit-3Back in the day, the salesman selling steel kitchen cabinets would actually come to your house. He would carry with him a briefcase. Inside: An entire kit full of little kitchen cabinets that could be assembled to create the kitchen of Mrs. America’s dreams. In the very early days of my research to recreate my vintage kitchen, I scored a Republic Steel Kitchen salesman’s kit on ebay — and it’s extra special, because it includes the large, full-color, spiral bound ‘easel brochure’ — 34 pages! — too. I can’t believe I never showed this wonderful steel kitchen cabinet salesman’s kit on the blog before — it’s fantastic!

salesman-sample-kit-19vintage salesman sample kitchen plannersalesman-sample-kit-2-3Above: This salesman’s sample and selling kit must have cost Republic Kitchens a fortune to produce. Inside the kit, all the little cabinets.  There is a refrigerator… a range… several sink bases in different sizes… doors…. windows… base cabinets… wall cabinets…. and corner cubbies, both wall and base. “My salesman” magic-markered where each cabinet should go. My kit appears to be quite complete.

vintage kitchen planner steThe idea: Mrs. America would come into the kitchen store and talk to the salesman there… Then, he would follow up with a visit to her home, where the deal would progress in stages.

salesman-sample-kit-4-3salesman-sample-kit-1-3Above: The back of each Republic ‘cabinet’  is marked with its size. Each little piece corresponds with an actual cabinet that you could order. Note, ironicallyish, the leetle cabinets are made of plastic, not steel.

salesman-sample-kit-3-3Above: There is a measuring tape that came with the kit. As part of the at-home selling process, the salesman would measure the homeowner’s kitchen so that with them, he could mock up their dream kitchen using the pieces in the kit.

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pam kueber with republic kitchen cabinet set

In the way early days of the blog, I wrote a story about vintage steel cabinets for Old House Interiors magazine. This was the photo taken to go-with. :)

Above: A quickie kitchen design I made for this photo shoot… I actually used this set to help design my own kitchen and imagine how it would flow. At various times when I’ve had people … reporters, photographers … come to the house to see the kitchen, I also would set this Republic set up — and they were just as fascinated with it as with my actual kitchen!

salesman-sample-kit-4salesman-sample-kit-5 salesman-sample-kit-6 steel kitchen cabinets salesmans kit salesman-sample-kit-8 salesman-sample-kit-9 salesman-sample-kit-10Above: The big salesman’s presentation is fantastic — chock full of amazing images to entice Mrs. Homeowner into buying.

salesman-sample-kit-6-3Above: There were five designs of Formica in the kit. I presume that Republic wanted to sell you the counter top, too. According to Grace Jeffers‘ master’s degree thesis, this pattern — Moonglo — was introduced on Sept. 27, 1948 at the Third National Plastics Exposition in New York city. It was conceived by designer Morris Sanders before World War II, but not brought to market until after. It was available in six colors — gray, tan, yellow, fiesta (the red you see above) and blue. Grace says that the pattern remained in the Formica collection until the later half of the 1950s. She says that the pattern mimics fiberglass, a popular leitmotif of the postwar era. I love that word — “leitmotif”. I need to use it more often!

salesman-sample-kit-12In the kit I purchased, there were four pieces of Formica. The other was a gray Mother of Pearl — a super popular pattern. The kit instructions say it came with five Formica samples. I do not know what the fifth would have been — I will guess, one more color of either of these two designs, likely that Republic would feature the most popular palettes.

salesman-sample-kit-13 salesman-sample-kit-14 salesman-sample-kit-15
salesman-sample-kit-20Above: At the very end of the presentation deck, there is a special section just for the salesman to read. It instructs him exactly how to conduct the in-house sales meeting… how to use the kit… and how to complete the follow-up driving toward the sale. My favorite little tidbit:

1. You dissatisfy your prospect with her present kitchen … by showing her examples of efficient, beautiful kitchens and problem-solving ideas…

Tee hee. American marketeers haven’t changed a bit. Except that instead of buying new kitchen cabinets made today…. I’m buying salesman sample kits. This is actually just one of four in my collection. I also own a set like this for Youngstown Steel kitchen cabinets — no big color presentation brochure, though. I own a much less complex “Plan your kitchen kit” that was sold or given away by Con Edison. And, one of my favorite finds is an old wood-block set of Curtis Kitchen cabinet models.

These days, there are usually one or two of these kits (various manufacturers) on ebay. They have become pretty expensive — $250 for a kit seems to be a going rate. However, most kits do not have the easel presentation, at least whenever I check the status of current auction inventory. *Nananananana dance.* I hope you enjoyed this one!

Slide show — Large photos of my Republic Steel kitchen cabinets salesman’s kit:

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Comments

  1. Mary Elizabeth says

    Pam, it is so fabulous to see your kitchen planning kit! You referred to it in a magazine article, but I didn’t realized how complete it is, with the number and variety of little metal cabinets that fit so demurely into the case. I’ve always been fascinated with all things miniature. Will you show us your other kits as well in future stories?

    Companies also used miniature samples to sell furniture door-to-door from the turn of the 20th century. Apparently in the mid century the bath salesmen came into the house with sample kits as well. When looking on eBay for a dollhouse tub to make a diorama, I saw on eBay a miniature sample of a pink enameled cast iron tub that had been part of a salesman’s kit. It was too large and too expensive for the project I had planned, so I didn’t buy it. even though I coveted it mightily.

    One interesting point–notice that we are saying “salesman” and that’s what your instruction kit shows–a man talking to a “housewife” to plan “her” kitchen. It was assumed that a woman wouldn’t do that sort of work, although they probably would have loved to do it.

    • Rudy says

      I was thinking the same thing about having women as sales people. I think they would have been VERY effective! Tupperware, an odd example maybe, might never have gotten off the ground if sold by men and the super salesperson of all time there was a woman.

  2. Jay says

    Great Friday post!
    The graphics and illustrations are wonderful – something not seen today in the electronic age. Amazing, the expense and detail that companies went to in the name of marketing. How civilized to have personalised service (albeit a sales call) in the home with the toy set up – a nice visual aid. Today, you have to go to a big box store and wait your turn to speak to someone about the various cabinets and their quality and features. All your toy mock up is missing is a mini Mixmaster and pyrex bowls.

    • Patty says

      I think the lack of big box stores is exactly why kits were needed. Would like to see an ad looking for the salesMEN.

  3. Sandra says

    Minor typos, and since it’s early and people are still waking up, I thought I’d point them out…
    “I scored a Republic Steel Kitchen salesman’s kit ebay ”
    “a fortune to product”

    Writing every day is a lot of work!

    No need to post this!

    • pam kueber says

      Fixed! Thanks! I will admit: I didn’t even proofread this one, it was such a long week. Two other stories this week nearly killed me with the proofreading.

  4. Rudy says

    I wonder why we can’t buy new steel cabinets like they sold in those times. You can get custom stainless steel but that’s hardly the same. I’m talking about a reputable company mass produced cabinetry system. Wood can look good but has it’s own issues. With computer aided manufacturing it would truly be a snap to build these. They’re very similar in manufacture to washing machine/dryer cabinetry in design. I love people who restore their mid century finds but I’m not one of them. I just want to order them like I do almost everything else in my house. Does such a system exist that I have missed hearing about?

    • pam kueber says

      Rudy, see my stories — use the Search box — about St. Charles steel cabinets being brought back to market by the Viking Range Company. They shut the effort down within a few years. Mass production and marketing kitchen cabinets — a very complicated, risky business. Fortunately for we Retro Renovators, there are plenty of vintage cabinets to be found, saved from the dumpster and restored. It can be done very affordably — with the trade of, of time.

      • Rudy says

        I found these folks. I’ve seen the website in the past but contacting them is a bit difficult. I think they like to sell to distributors and not end users. http://www.fillipmetal.com/kitchens/ I may just buy the used vintage and bite the bullet on having them restored. First…I need to find or build my med century house!

      • Rudy says

        Thanks Pam. That’s sad the Viking sales didn’t work out. 2008 was very bad timing though. I would think a smaller fabricator with lower overhead might have a better chance with it especially today. Steel is cheap, technology is WAY more available and less expensive than even 2008. Oh well….easy for me to say. Thank you again for the fantastic stories!

        • pam kueber says

          Yes, Rudy, but I really think: While manufacturing may be “easy”, merchandising, marketing, warrangies, customer service, etc on something as complex as kitchen cabinets is not cheap…

          • Rudy says

            Absolutely agree and understood! A big commitment in time and money. No guarantees for a profit so maybe too limited a market.

  5. Lethe says

    Wow, so thrilled to see this Moonglo pattern formica in “fiesta” red, because I recognized it right away: there’s a big stripe of it running down the center of my chrome-and-formica dinette table! The fiesta section features two cherry-shaped cut-outs, and the cherries and rest of the table are grey mother of pearl formica. It is so cool to know what these patterns are called!

  6. Leslie says

    I love this! I wish I could have lived in the age of innovation. There were so many cool, well made, well thought out things back then!

  7. TappanTrailerTami says

    Wow, what a great little itty bitty kitchen set! I can’t believe you haven’t featured it before now either – it is so fun to look at!

    I just went and searched eBay for “salesman’s sample” – what a great category of things to look at. Everything from furniture, stoves, windmills, and the occasional very odd kit, like a set of salesman’s sample dentures. I guess you bought your teeth in the comfort of your home also, back in the day!

  8. Scott says

    One of the great unsolved mysteries of our lifetimes will be why did steel kitchens fall out of favor. Love the Moonglow Formica and does Republic show us how to rock out a white kitchen and white appliances or what?

  9. Neil says

    Interesting that, of the three formica samples you show, the green and yellow appear to be printed to give the illusion of a concave texture, while the red appears to give the illusion of a convex texture.
    Also…when I was a little boy entranced by my toy stove and pots and pans, I would have killed for your tiny kitchen! Well, not killed maybe, but charmed the dickens out of you to pry it from your hands, for sure; or failing the success of that approach, I would have been coming to play with you (read: with your kitchen) often.

  10. Linda says

    Great score! Would love to know how much you paid for it. I checked ebay and there is one for $775.00. Out of my price range but I’d LOVE to have one.

  11. retrobradatlanta says

    Pam, what a great find!!! What a gift to have as an aid in planning your vintage kitchen! I love the site & thanks for keeping us junkies “addicted.”
    My background is in architecture & design but my heart is in “junking” in the retro world. I collect from deco to mid-century modern kitsch, toys, trains, home plan books, world’s fair and MCM items to decorate my condo. It is rather a big mess right now but moving forward. My condo complex originally was designed as apts. in 1967 by Atlanta architect Robert Green who studied under FLW at Taliesen. It is modest compared to the fabulous homes he designed in the Atlanta area yet it is something special with the way the light plays thru the spaces. Unfortunately it is in a location that will be threatened in the future due to the land value.
    I’m currently trying to organize and display my main passion of collecting mid-century modern design items that are presented thru old building toys, old train buildings, dollhouses/ furniture, home plan guides, craft books, etc. I’d post some photos sometime if you want but not sure how. Thanks for all the love you all put into the site & happy collecting!

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