Today’s addition to my Retro Renovation Encyclopedia of Vintage Steel Kitchen Cabinets is a pretty rare brand — Berloy Steel Kitchen Cabinets. My catalog is dated 1940, which makes these Berloy cabinets early birds — and stay tuned — these Berloys are just the first of three names for cabinets made by the same company. The Berloy design — with its inset drawers and doors — clearly peg it as a precursor to the big (overlay door style) post-WWII boom in steel kitchen cabinets.
History of Berloy (and Berger and Republic) Steel Kitchen Cabinets
These Berloys appear to have been the first steel cabinets made by Berger Manufacturing Division of Republic Steel Corporation, based in Canton, Ohio. Digging around the www, I spotted Berloy kitchen cabinets as early as 1939.
This history says the company was started in 1886 by the Berger Brothers and two friends. In the century+ that followed, there were acquisitions, new companies formed, new locations, new products … and then a fair amount of unwinding. This company in its many incarnations made LOTS of steel products!
The name “Berloy” was invented as a result of one such acquisition: created in 1921 when Berger Manufacturing merged with United Alloy Steel. Berloy was the name put on steel furniture, lockers and the like. The online history does not mention steel kitchen cabinets, but given what was going on in the home interiors industry, it surely was a natural line extension for Berger Manufacturing.
Today the company that still holds the Republic name — Republic Storage LLC — makes lockers and shelving and is privately held.
I don’t think the Berloy brand lasted long. So far, I see Berger cabinets online as early as 1945. My Berger catalog, recently featured, is from 1948. By then, you can see the new overlay door style.
But even the Berger cabinets may not have lasted very long, because the big name cabinets coming out of this company soon were “Republic Steel Kitchen Cabinets”, which were widely marketed in full color in the 1950s and possibly into the 1960s. This brand is very close to my heart, because I own a spectacular vintage salesman’s sample kit, complete with the big guide the salesman used to convince Mrs. America she needed a new kitchen and Mr. America that it was worth it.
Some day I will try and closely compare the Berger and Republic designs to see if I can determine any differences (versus a simple name change.)
Berloy Steel Kitchen Cabinets
Back to the Berloy kitchen cabinets. My brochure gives us some pretty good tips to identify them. Does anyone have them? I’d dearly love to see a set in the wild!
Above: Note (1) the unusual way that the inset doors are set into the wall cabinet — the way the wall cabinet is pressed into an L, I mean, and (2) if you have an original countertop note the unique stainless steel ‘backsplash” piece
Above: Note the unique stainless steel “Union Strip” — that’s what the catalog calls it! — bridging the sink to the countertop.
It’s hard to get a good look at the cabinet pulls, but they seem to be simple-ish crescents with in three sections, that is, indented.
Above: Lookie the door latch. Note the filler material in the doors/drawers — some readers have reported being told this will disintegrate/burn(?) if put in ovens when curing paint — consult with pros. Also be aware: We don’t really know what’s in filler materials like these — ditto: consult with pros. Renovate safe.
Above: The corner cubbies have an angle cut.
Above: The sink base has only two vents. No sign of a logo. No sign, in the catalog, that this company sold the sinks to go with.
1940 price list for steel kitchen cabinets
Hey, we even have a price list! However: I believe these are wholesale — not retail — prices based on the discussion of credit on the second page. The catalog, though, does appear to focused on retail customers. It could be this catalog came from a store — an old hardware store, for example — that was selling the cabinets to customers. The price list was for the store owners. Details on the wholesale prices:
- A 55″ sink cabinet was $$32 (no sink included) — $591 in 2019 dollars and if that really is a wholesale price, say, $1200 retail.
- A 24″ three-drawer base was $21.80
- The linoleum top (bonded to steel!) for the three-drawer base was $9.80
As you can also see from the green price list, by 1940 Berger had offices in 19 cities mostly in the Midwest but also reaching as far south as Alabama, east up to Boston, and west to San Francisco.
Until I started digging into my hoards — yes, hoards! — of vintage marketing materials that I have been collecting since 2001, I had no idea that Berloys existed. I have never seen nor heard of them in the wild. Will we ever? Time will tell!