Kitchen collectibles are items of antique or vintage kitchenware, cookware, bakeware, cooking utensils, cutlery and other items associated with food preparation and storage. These may also be described as ‘kitchenalia’. Items can include kettles, measuring scales, gelatine and chocolate moulds, biscuit jars, salt and pepper pots, carved butter stamps and measuring jugs. The term can also be used to describe cookery books and vintage electrical appliances such as toasters or espresso machines.
Collectors often purchase kitchen collectibles to use as purely decorative objects in their kitchens, whilst others use them in food preparation.
Often people will focus their collection on a specific area such as pottery storage jars, antique kettles or butter stamps.
Others will concentrate on a particular time period such as the 1950s or the 19th century.
19th century kitchens
Until the 19th century the kitchen was not a separate room in most homes other than the larger houses of the wealthy, and most food was cooked over an open fire. This changed in many houses with the introduction of running water and gas pipes during the 19th century, and as the notion of the kitchen as a separate room developed so did appliances to fill it.
Throughout the 19th century the Scottish town of Mauchline, near Ayr, was the centre for the production of all types of useful wooden kitchen tools and containers, referred to today under the generic term of ‘treen’. These items are now some of the most popular with collectors of kitchenalia.
The 19th century saw the development of a vast variety of kitchenware and utensils, and the kitchens of grand houses grew to encompass a large number of staff. By the end of the century however, labour-saving devices had greatly reduced the number of staff needed once more as gas and electricity began to be introduced into people’s homes.
Revolutionary devices of the 19th century included the enclosed "Rumford stove" around 1800 (invented by Benjamin Thompson), along with a large number of potato mashers, peelers, sausage stuffers, gelatine moulds, egg cutters and even the waffle iron. The 1800s saw the patenting of over 185 different coffee grinders and over 500 kinds of potato and apple peelers.
As kitchens developed their own identity as separate rooms, both their layout and design began to be studied. The German kitchen brand 'Poggenpohl', established in 1892 by Friedemir Poggenpohl, introduced ergonomic work-top heights and storage chutes that were later adopted by Schütte-Lihotzky's Frankfurt Kitchen, a design that was used extensively for new housing projects in Germany during the 1930s and paved the way for modern streamlined kitchens.
20th century appliances
The first half of the 20th century saw gas and then electricity become commonplace in most urban homes, and inventions such as electric toasters, mixers and blenders soon followed. The number of items needed in the kitchen fell as many tasks became possible with a single device.
Kitchenalia became collectible in the 1970s, as kitchens became more streamlined with modern devices. Until then many kitchen implements were used daily and it was only when they were no longer needed in new kitchens that it occurred to people to collect them. People also realised that an old set of scales or kitchen jars could be used as attractive decorative items.
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