Continuing work on The Retro Renovation® Encyclopedia of Vintage Steel Kitchen Cabinets, let’s take a look at Marvel Metal Products Company line of steel kitchen cabinets. This four-page brochure in my personal collection came with a price list and note from a separate retailer dated March 14, 1950. These cabinets were sold via Western Auto Stores as Westline Steel Kitchen Cabinets and possibly (not confirmed) other retailers.
Marvel Metal Group still operating today
Based in Chicago, Marvel Metal Products Company got its start in 1946, making breadboxes. Within a few short years, it began making these steel kitchen cabinets.
The company still operates today, as Marvel Group. << Their history page says that they manufactured metal products for companies including Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Wards, and other such retailers. As we’ll see in a moment, these steel cabinets seem to have been made for Western Auto. Maybe others? I don’t know for sure, over time, I will need to cross reference catalogs to see if there are links to Sears or Monty Ward cabinets as well.
Manufactured by Marvel Metal Products Co.
The main cabinets, like most other “modern” designs, have full overlay doors and chrome pulls.
However, some of the utility cabinets also were offered with inset doors and drawers. In a 1949 Westline Furniture catalog spotted online, I also see basic kitchen door and drawer cabinets with inset doors and drawers. So it could be that Marvel quickly transitioned out of the old-fashioned (and harder to manufacture, with less interior storage space?) inset designs to the full overlay modern designs.
The base cabinets had “plastic tops” — which likely means laminate like Formica, Textolite, Consoweld, or one of the other makers.
The counter had shiny beaded aluminum edges –probably the #1 feature to help identify this brand of cabinets, assuming the countertops are still in place.
You could also get a porcelain top base cabinet. Above, this is a cutie “bread box base” with inset drawers and door.
Retailed as: Westline Steel Kitchen Cabinets from Western Auto
Above: My materials confirm that the cabinets were made by Marvel, but sold by Western Auto Supply Company dealers. That is: Your local Western Auto hardware store. In this memo that came with the brochure, Western Auto is calling the sets “Westline Steel Kitchen Cabinets”. I also spot the cabinets in this 1949 Westline (Western Auto) Furniture catalog, page 36-38 (where you can also see the inset style.) Western Auto does not want their dealers to contact Marvel directly, they say, but to buy from Western Auto:
Because this season of the year is “remodeling time” and your market for this merchandise is ideal, we are sending you this extra selling tool to help you get more of this profitable market.
What steel kitchen cabinets cost in 1950:
It’s certainly interesting to see the suggested retail selling prices from 1950:
- Single door base cabinets started at $27.95. [Note: That is $303 in June 2019, according to the BLS CPI Calculator.]
- A corner shelf , which looks like it has metal edging, was $7.69 [$83.49 in 2019 dollars.]
- Wall cabinets started at $10.95. [$119 in 2019.]
- Utility cabinets started at $19.95. ($217 in 2019.]
Interestingly, there is no sink base mentioned anywhere. Indeed, reading the online catalog, these were marketed as “fill in” your kitchen pieces.
Above: Hey, I like this idea: Hang the what-not shelf horizontally!
So there you have ’em: Marvel aka Westline Steel Kitchen cabinets. Among the 95+ brands of vintage steel kitchen cabinets I’ve catalogued so far. And believe it or not, I’m still finding more fairly regularly, as I continue working in earnest on the Encyclopedia.