Murphy Cabranette Kitchens — introduced in 1926 — made by the Murphy Bed Door Company. Alas, my vintage catalog has no date on it anywhere. UPDATE Dec 2019: I think my catalog is from the… late 1930s, but not sure. In any case, so far in all my research I believe that this brand is a very early brand of metal kitchen cabinets — although it’s unclear when “fitted” was added to “alcove” designs.
Thanks to reader Jim for the tip that led me to this Murphy Cabranette Kitchens catalog, now in my personal collection. Let’s take a look >>
- Given their design — especially as seen in earlier catalogs — the Murphy Cabranettes present like a Denisovan Lucy missing link, bridging old “furniture” style kitchens with the new “fitted” style kitchen we still live in today.
- The”De Lux” installation is featured at the end of the catalog — after the “alcove” kitchens. It seems that alcoves came first … then, the cabinets were adopted into modern “fitted” kitchens for larger apartments and homes. Note, by “fitted,” I mean the cabinets are used in the entire kitchen — with attached base cabinets and wall cabinets — all in a long line. “Fitted”= modern arrangement of cabinets, which we we still have today! Prior to fitted, we had one-off furniture-like pieces e.g. Hoosier cabinets…. and “alcove” sets, but I am not including these as the ground zero base date for my historical inquiry. I want to know: Who made and marketed the very first fitted kitchen sets!
- Vitreous porcelain, oh my.
- Murphy Bed Door Company — that’s the same company as “Murphy Beds” — big marketplace reach.
You know that my ultimate Encyclopedia goal is to nail down who was the first the first the first to make fitted steel kitchen cabinets. Could it be Murphy Cabranettes? Time may tell.
Murphy Cabrabettes in “Alcove” designs
In the photos shown above, we see a series of Murphy Cabranettes shown as unitized sets meant to slide into apartment kitchens. The fold-out sheet in my catalog indicate than when you combine the cabinets with the stove, sink and refrigerator, you are creating an ALCOVE UNIT.
Note, the refrigeration unit includes space for an icebox or refrigerator. Yes: ICEBOX.
EARLY STEEL KITCHEN CABINETS!
Bridge to modern “fitted” kitchens
More of the text for the Murphy Cabranettes De Luxe:
Here is shown but one typical assembly… One Murphy Cabranette installation, in a 16-room Park Avenue apartment, stretches through three service rooms.
To simplify cleaning and for perfect sanitation, these Cabranettes are made entirely of steel. Doors and drawer fronts are porcelain, in our stock colors or in special tints….
Work tops are covered in Monel metal, battleship linoleum or porcelain. Exposed wall areas may be covered with porcelain splasher sections or may be built of tile.
… built to order…
Murphy Cabrette colors — amazing!
- Pewter gray…
- Spring green…
- … all edged in black!
Porcelain finish on steel
The time approaches when painted kitchen equipment, either wood or steel, will be as archaic as a painted bath tub, a painted sink or a a painted refrigerator.
Porcelain conquered the bathroom, then entered the kitchen via sinks, table tops and refrigerators. Now come Murphy Cabranette Kitchens with their entire fronts of 18 and 20 gauge steel finished in four-coat vitrified porcelain! << (emphasis theirs)
Note, the brochure also says the cabinets “double thick flush doors, operating on Jerome concealed hinges….”
Family tree history of Murphy Cabranette kitchen cabinets
Basic history of Murphy Cabranettes once they had that name:
- 1926 — Dwyer bought Murphy by 1940. Dwyer says cabinet production started in 1926 — see their pdf, which also explains their vitreous porcelain. So: I’ll set the first Cabranettes at 1926.
- 1927 — Additional sourcing. A while back, a reader told me he had Murphy Cabranettes in his Chicago condo built in 1927. Since he had the name — I will assume it is on the cabinets somewhere, or how else would you know — so yes, Murphy Cabranettes as early as 1927.
- 1930 — First found reference to name Murphy Cabranettes in advertising.
- 1938 catalog — shows the evolution of the design — more modern. (link now gone, darnit)
- By 1940 — Dwyer bought Murphy, this catalog indicates, by 1940.
Diving further back, research suggests Murphy’s connection to steel kitchens to as early as 1919. However, I do not have enough information to tell whether the early kitchens mentioned pass my test of being classified as “fitted” kitchens. They may be “kitchenets” (Hoosier-style cupboards) or unitized alcove sets for apartments only.
- 1919 — a May 25, 1919 advertisement in the Tampa Bay Times from the Murphy Door Bed Company, of Atlanta says that the Murphy Door Bed Company sells Powell Steel Gas Kitchens. The text describes the kitchens and the other “Murphyized” furniture that can be installed in apartment units.
- 1920 — By 1920, the Majestic stove company buys Powell and now these cabinets become the Majestic Steel Gas Kitchens (also now added to my list — 92 brands) Fort Wayne Journal Gazette clarifies that these cabinets are sold exclusively by the Murphy Door Bed Company. Ads for Murphy Door Bed Company reflect the name change.
- 1919 — Squirrel: I seethe Electric Kitchenet Company of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, because they have hired a Powell/Majestic employee. Let’s take this moment to codify/clarify/understand: Kitchenets. Just to be clear: These are not what I call kitchens. They are what I call, all Kleenex- and Formica-like: Hoosier cabinets. Poking around, it’s easy to see that there were many makers of kitchenets, especially wood kitchenets. Steel kitchenets are likely an important part of the evolution to fitted steel kitchen cabinets, but they do not fit my definition of fitted kitchens. So, kitchenets will not be catalogued in the Encyclopedia, although I will add them to the History. This 1920 reference calls Majestics kitchenets. Dangit, without illustrations or photos I can’t make the judgment call of how these puzzle pieces all fit together in the history.
- 1923 — The details in this story suggests that the Majestic kitchens are small unitized apartment units — again, I’m calling these alcove kitchens. Still it seems like “all the parts” may be there to make a fitted kitchen, and in fact, the story mentions “more elaborate cabinets and cupboards” available. I’m putting a pin in this date — 1923 — as a result of those word, “more elaborate cabinets… are available”!
- 1926 — By January 1926 the cabinets are renamed Murphy Steel Kitchens. This ad in the St. Louis Star and Times in 1927 gives us an illustration of what Steel Kitchen Cabinet by Murphy Bed Co. looked like — although the door styles are different than the ones in my catalog. In any case, it’s good to have the illustration. NOTE: In the movie “Judy”, are the kitchen cabinets in Sid Luft’s house these old-style Murphy Cabranettes? Watching the movie, I noticed them right away. Maybe so!