Dieterich Steel Cabinet Corp. kitchen cabinets — since at least 1933

dieterich steel kitchen cabinetrsContinuing work on my Retro Renovation Encyclopedia of Steel Kitchen Cabinets: Dieterich steel kitchen cabinets seem to be among the earliest brands. I see them used as early as 1933 in the Stran-Steel House of the Century in Chicago. The catalog I’m showing in this story is from my own collection — it has no date markings, but certainly ‘feels’ old. 

Dieterich steel kitchen cabinetsCompany owned by Fred W. Dieterich, one of the cofounders of Elgin Stove and Oven

Using my subscription to newspapers.com, I discovered that Dieterich Steel Cabinet Corp. was owned by Fred W. Dieterich, who also had been president of the Elgin Stove and Oven company. In fact, he was more than just president — he was a cofounder of the company. He died in 1950 at age 72.

The Historic Elgin website cites Fred and Freada Dieterich as one of the “three notable families” in Elgin history and shows the home they occupied there from 1921-1935. 

And: This 1923 Gas Age story explains the early history of the Elgin company, which started in 1903 as the Kimball-Dieterich Hardware Company and had a name change to Elgin Gas and Oven in 1918, presumably based on the success of their stove line, .

Elgin Steel Cabinetry also existed in the same time frame

Interesting: We also have two catalogs for Elgin Steel Cabinetry by the Elgin Stove and Oven Co., one in 1932, and another in 1938. The two cabinetcompanies — Elgin and Dieterich  — have different addresses. And when he died, Fred Dieterich continued to be identified as president of his eponymous cabinet company. These facts lead me to believe that Fred Dieterich retired from Elgin and moved on to start his own steel kitchen cabinet line — Elgin and Dieterich cabinets were separate enterprises. 

What’s also interesting to me, as a per se historian of steel kitchen cabinets, about both of these brands, is that we now have a direct line from stove production to cabinet production. That is: Steel for stoves …. led to steel for cabinets. In other stories about other brands, we’ve seen a connection between auto body makers and steel kitchen cabinets. I still need to piece all these family trees together; I see a big map on a posterboard on my dining room table in my future.

Construction was “vermin proof”

1930s steel kitchen cabinetsAs I’ve mentioned before, steel cabinetry was often marketed as “vermin proof” — in the days when there was much serious concern about spread of disease in kitchens. In the catalog, Dieterich says:

Dieterich Custom Line cabinets are precision constructed of 20 gauge, No. 1 quality furniture steel with flush seamless fronts. All cabinets, both wall and base types are fully enclosed, top, back, sides and bottom, making them vermin proof, which is [text unreadable due to hole punch.]

Note: All the bolding above is in the catalog. The cabinets were “….finished with three coats of synthetic baked enamel available in white, light or dark ivory, or any color to suit the color scheme of the truly modern kitchen.”

dieterich steel kitchen cabinetsThere were lots of options and a kitchen planning service, too. Specs indicate that base cabinets came in both 21″ and 24-1/2″ depths.

And, there were other “Special Service Cabinets” too. The catalog notes that “Dieterich steel kitchens are being used daily in the finest mansions in the country to the most modest one room kitchenettes.” 

How to identify Dietrich cabinets

dieterich steel kitchen cabinetsHow to identify Dieterich cabinets? There may or may not be a “D” logo on the sink base. I have no information on whether there are internal markings. 

dieterich kitchen cabinetsNotable features:

  • Inset doors and drawers
  • Two horizontal ventilation cuts on the panel at the top of the sink base
  • Eyeball the chrome pulls to see how they look vs. whats’s in these photos

Anyone out there have vintage Dieterichs in their original habitat? How wonderful that would be to see!

You are now in the universe’s epicenter of all steel kitchen cabinet research:

CategoriesSteel kitchens
  1. carolyn says:

    “…I see a big map on a posterboard on my dining room table in my future.” I have to wonder why home builders were getting away from dining rooms – where else can you DO stuff?

  2. Gretchen Fucio says:

    You are doing a great service by compiling this research. I have Geneva steel cabinets that are contemporary with my house, a General Homes prefab from 1957. I love my cabinets. They are still pretty good looking and they are convenient and easy to clean. I can’t understand why there’s a trend back to open shelving in modern kitchens- so much harder to keep things clean and tidy looking when they are exposed.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. I know it’s taking up a lot of blog space right now, but it’s something I’ve wanted to get to for years 🙂

      I agree re: closed cabinetry. Dust and even worse — grease you don’t even really know and don’t really want to know that is hanging in the airs — gets all over stuff. I know this because I clean by tchotchkes on my what-not shelves every two or three years whether they need it or not (lol) and they are always covered in icky icky grease which dirt embedded in it. Good times.

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