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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 monel sinks

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 metal

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.

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:?

  1. Isabella Osuna says:

    Hello,

    Thank you so much for this article. In my home I have the Whitehead Monel Kitchen. It was built in the late 1930s. However, there are certain repairs and cleaning services that are very much desired. If anybody knows of any located in the Los Angeles, California area it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. JOHN PLANT says:

    Sounds as if Monel is the same as German Silver, Nickel Silver, or in current terms CuVerro antibacterial copper.
    The nickel and copper content makes it naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial thus killing all bacteria on the surface naturally within minutes. The new antimocrobial silver coatings on many current products work in much the same manner but are only modern day coatings that wear off in time. This product is solid thru and thru and lasts until you renovate and physically remove it. Much better for kitchens, bathrooms, handrails and knobs in homes, schools and hospitals etc than stainless steel. Stainless steel has absolutely no antimicrobial properties and germs and bacteria thrive on it until cleaned away with antiseptics.

    1. Monel is not the same material as “German Silver” which itself has many different names. German Silver (contains no silver) is a soft material and a blend of copper, nickel and zinc, important to note that is a soft, pliable material much like copper itself. Monel is also a blended material, but is primarily a high nickel content variation of Stainless Steel and is no way near as soft. Look for Monel (farmhouse style) sinks made by the American Nickel Co. back in the early 1930’s. I believe they were only made for about 5 years. I have two now and have had three others. German Silver material sinks are typically found with hundreds of tiny dents in the basins due to a lot of use as they are roughly 100 years old.(not counting the new reproductions which are beautiful and costly) The Monel sinks I have seen seldom show no or very few dents in basin as they are so much harder.

  3. Isaac says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I found the 84″ double sink version at EcoBuilding Bargains a year or so ago, and was very glad to find out more about its history.

    Apparently Whitehead kitchens – including Monel sinks and counters – were installed in some 1940s public housing in Texas (now sadly demolished)! See this photo and others in the same album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fourfive/3702165649/

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