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Our 85th brand of vintage steel kitchen cabinets — Humphryes Manufacturing Co. of Mansfield, Ohio

10 years blogging on the topic and howdy hudee: Our 85th brand of metal kitchen cabinets has popped up: The Humphryes Manufacturing Company of Mansfield, Ohio. I was poking around and spotted the brochure, from 1950, here

There aren’t too many photos, but these cabinets appear to have inset (rather than the more typical overlay) drawers and doors. The pulls are pretty simple looking. The scan of the brochure is also cut off at the top and bottom — it might be that these were simpler, “efficiency” kitchen units for motels or small apartments rather than full-line cabinet sets for homes.

Golly, though: Even at the potentially lower price point, these Humphreys cabinets passed the Hot Fat, Alcohol, Impact (and more) tests — and received the seal of approval from the Steel Kitchen Cabinet Institute!

More info about vintage steel kitchen cabinets from the worldwide web’s number-one resource — us!

 

CategoriesSteel kitchens
  1. diana lunness says:

    Hi i am looking to buy Endora & Betty formica worktops for my kitchen ,i keep hitting a brick wall. do you know if i can get any and where from in the UK,, PLEASE

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi The Other Theo, for my compendium/Encyclopedia, I am only focused on full-scale fitted kitchen manufacturers. I don’t research metal Hoosier cabinets. I think there were lots of metal Hoosiers, but I”m not interested because I focus on the postwar era, and that’s when fitted kitchens came on strong, transforming American kitchens in a way that’s still relevant today.

          1. Great! Glad you like it. You’ll want to list the manufacturer as Janes & Kirtland. According to a 1927 promotional booklet by the St. Charles Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Janes & Kirtland, Inc. “was located in St. Charles about 1900 as the Faultless Iron Works” (meaning, I think, that the Faultless Iron Works was acquired.) It goes on to say that it “manufactures white enameled steel ware, specializing in white enameled steel dressers which largely go into the ultra-exclusive apartment homes of New York City.” What can you expect from a company with a Park Ave. showroom, I guess?

            You may also want to have a look at the items in the shop of the seller of the Janes & Kirtland brochure. There is a good deal of mid-century architectural and contractor information and advertising. Just searching on the keyword “kitchen” brought up materials on steel cabinets from Dietrich, St. Charles, Art Metal, Acme Metal, Geneva, Tracy, and Youngstown, as well as a host of wood cabinet makers and appliance manufacturers from the 1940’s through the early 1980’s.

            Of particular interest might be this 1938 piece from the Excel Metal Cabinet Co., makers of “Metalcraft” Custom Kitchen Cabinets:
            https://www.ebid.net/us/for-sale/excel-metal-cabinet-company-1938-metalcraft-kitchen-vintage-catalog-144759706.htm

            So #87, maybe?

              1. I think the Faultless Iron Works part of the company did at the minimum. According to the St. Charles of New York web site Brand Heritage page:

                “The St. Charles Manufacturing Company organized and began operations in a small plant in St. Charles, Illinois. Former owners of the plant were Janes and Kirtland, who made the first steel “kitchen dressers”.”

                That happened in 1935. The Janes & Kirtland brochure is still selling “The White House Line” in 1938, the same year that St. Charles says it organized its national media campaign, and two years after Frank Lloyd Wright chose St. Charles for the cabinets in the Kaufmann House (“Fallingwater”).

                Picture of the Fallingwater steel cabinets here:
                http://www.wright-house.com/frank-lloyd-wright/fallingwater-pictures/photos-medium/7-kitchen-cabinets-ML.jpg

                  1. “When it’s time for your Southern vacation and you close up your city apartment this winter” — talk about “ultra-exclusive” marketing!

                    I tried to see if anyone definitively referred to the cabinets at Fallingwater as “Janes & Kirtland” or “St. Charles” since I figure that every detail about that house has to be documented somewhere. Alas no, the Internet fails me. The only casual references are to “St. Charles”.

                    So who knows how long Janes & Kirtland continued selling steel cabinets under its own name… but at least it provides some history on the St. Charles brand that still exists today and why Janes & Kirtland disappeared.

                    I also found a few references here and there on the Steel Kitchen Cabinet Institute. I found a document that had its business address in the 1930’s, and another that said it changed its name to the Steel Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association by the 1950’s. Trying to search for “Steel Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association” is difficult because there are just too many common words and the “Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association” also exists.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Pam, when I need an RR fix when you’re on vacation or break, I started going back to the first blogs and the links to settle my nerves. One good thing about having an 2006 Dell is that it loads slow so it takes me a lot longer to get through them quickly.
    Question about steel K’s (and note that I’ve only seen a few but that was before I knew anything about them)- can you mix&match manufacturers or does that look goofy because of size differences? Since few are pristine, painting would make them look more cohesive but …? I think varying hardware might be an issue if units were side by side but if you then had some sort of “system” to make a pattern?
    What say you all?

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    First, here is a link to the Museum of Modern Art’s catalogue of “Machine Art.” It includes several pieces of White House by Janes & Kirtland, including cabinets and a plate warmer.

    https://www.moma.org/documents/moma_master-checklist_325014.pdf

    Also, I would say to Caroline that with careful planning and measurement she could easily mix and match cabinets from different companies. For example, she could put a wall of St. Charles and then on an opposite wall (or after a doorway, etc.) she could put a wall of something else. Cabinets could be placed on wooden risers to even out the height. And if the hardware differs, she can replace all the hardware with something period appropriate. And there is a lot of information on this site about painting cabinets.

      1. Mary Elizabeth says:

        I think very soon I’ll take a trip to MoMA to see what is currently on display of 20th century artifacts. Also, in the Metropolitan Museum there is a permanent display of parts of a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

    1. Jay says:

      Fascinating! Thanks Mary Elizabeth. The link was for the exhibit checklist (but no date) so my curiosity was piqued. Found the catalog, for the exhibit from 1934, with many pictures. Thanks again!

  4. Karin says:

    Who could ever have imagined there were so many brands of metal cabinets! They must have been very popuIar. I especially like the idea about wooden risers and kickboards for metal cabinets. I have a metal lower cabinet that is leaving some rust spots on my kitchen tiles from the floor being washed. While it`s not a huge deal to scrub the rust stains off, it may be be better to use wooden risers. Great post, thanks.

    1. Allen says:

      Do you think you could attach rubber base cove to your metal plinths to stop the rust? The rubber base cove is a very period look.

  5. Jay says:

    I went down one of those rabbit holes. I remembered Mansfield OH was where Westinghouse manufactured their appliances. Turns out post war, Mansfield was a hub of manufacturing. Home grown Humphryes started as a foundry in 1800s and lasted until 1973. It was an enormous facility.

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