clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hoosier cabinets did come from Indiana

Question: A friend of mine recently moved a large kitchen cupboard from her old family home to her new house, where I saw it for the first time. She called it a "Hoosier." Can you tell me the origin of this name, and what exactly is the definition of a Hoosier? Does the name have anything to do with Indiana?

Answer: The Hoosier cabinet - a free-standing, multipurpose kitchen unit made of wood or enameled metal - was a new concept for the home at the turn of the century. Its appearance coincided with the elevation of housework to a "science" called "home economics." The cabinets were touted for their efficiency - "proved by laboratory tests" - in eliminating the need for numerous trips to the cellar and pantry.

The name does indeed come from the nickname for Indiana - the Hoosier state. The Hoosier Manufacturing Co., based in New Castle, Ind., began selling its cabinets in the 1890s. A number of other Midwestern companies, most of them also in Indiana, soon began making the cabinets. They were extremely popular throughout the United States, and even overseas, in the early 1900s, during which time the name "Hoosier" became the popular name for them all. Only the Hoosier company itself, of course, could refer to one of its cabinets in advertisements as a "Hoosier."

By the time of their heyday in the 1920s, Hoosiers had become more refined and efficient than ever, equipped with all sorts of gadgets and devices - flour sifters, sugar-lump crushers, cookbook holders, storage jars and cooking time tables. You could say the "classic" Hoosier is represented by one of these later models, though the gadgets weren't prerequisite to the overall concept.

Some people called them "hoovers." Perhaps this was influenced by the fact that during the depression the name "Hoover" tended to be on people's lips already and was being used in a lot of slang references: "Hoover blankets," for example, for newspapers when used for warmth by the homeless sleeping on park benches. But the cabinet name was not a direct reference to President Herbert Hoover, the way those slang terms were.

By 1940, built-in kitchen cabinets had been introduced and the Hoosier became a quaint relic of the past.

Question: My dictionary tells me that the origin of the word "rosary" comes from the Latin word for "rose garden." I can't even begin to figure out the connection here. Can you help?

Answer: "Rosary" is from medieval Latin "rosarium," which in earlier Latin had meant literally "a rose garden." It was used metaphorically to refer to a series of prayers, thought of perhaps as a garden of prayers and perhaps influenced by the association in Christian symbolism of the rose with the Virgin Mary and the rose garden with paradise. The sense of "rosary" was applied by extension to the string of beads as well as to the prayers themselves. These senses of "rosary" first appeared in English in the 16th century.