This weekend I made a bit of an impulse buy at the antique store. Not completely out of character for me. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are in the process of restoring an Antebellum home, built in 1836. I have decided to celebrate my kitchen’s small size and play up the history of my house with a primitive kitchen redo. I came upon this Hoosier -style cabinet while shopping in a nearby town and knew it was exactly what I needed for my kitchen. Original hardware, cooling rack, flour sifter, and all the bells and whistles. I was smitten.
I had seen Hoosier Cabinets before, but never put a lot of thought into them. I came home from my shopping excursion and immediately began researching and looking for additional accessories for my cabinet. Hoosier cabinets were all the rage in the late 19th and early 20th century. A 1905 catalog advertises them as “kitchen cabinets designed to increase efficiency.” The cabinets stored flour, sugar, and spices. It also provided storage for utensils, pots, pans, and food. Some had meat grinders, flour sifters, and Lazy Suzans. The accessories were what made the cabinets! Everything a cook needed was centralized in one place. The porcelain counter top pulls out as a work space for baking. Hoosier-style cabinet production declined after World War II with the advent of modern appliances.
I found these old photographs and advertisements and could spend hours analyzing them. They reveal so much about early 20th century culture.
Advertisements are a wealth of information for educators. They encourage critical thinking, interpretation, and inquiry. Ads like this can be used to teach persuasion, language and media techniques, historical context, and consumer culture.For many items like this there are also plenty of other primary source material to incorporate: catalogs, photographs, and company records.
I like using the Library of Congress analysis tool found here when analyzing advertisements and other written primary sources. This tool can be used to compare historical advertisements with modern ads for similar items as well. My husband and I were joking that we wouldn’t need to have any kitchen cabinets with fancy inserts if we had this Hoosier cabinet. What modern day object could be used for comparison? A luxury refrigerator or a Kitchen-Aid mixer with all the accessories?
Students can try creating their own advertisement with any object used in an object-based learning activity. Give students choice in the medium and the possibilities are endless. It requires consideration of intended audience, language choice, design elements, and persuasion techniques. I would love to see student-created ads for a Hoosier-style cabinet.
And, how much fun would it be to have students design their own Hoosier-style cabinet for today’s market. What cool accessories would be included? What would it be made of? And how much would it cost? Sounds like a maker project waiting to happen.
Have I mentioned I love object-based learning?