You paid HOW MUCH for that thing?

Kitchens and Gadgets  1920 to 1950




Pros:  Lots of pictures, Good Research, Easy reading

Cons: Pages are not stapled or sewn into cover, my book is falling apart, on the other hand, it IS 32 years old and has been used often over these 32 years.


Kitchens and Gadgets  1920 to 1950 by Jane H. Celehar is noted as a comprehensive guide to the identification, history and values of colored handled gadgets and the kitchens in which they were used.   

I have collected so called Depression Era kitchen gadgets, gizmos and whatchamacallits for many years.  Some I saw in use in the kitchens of my grandmother and aging aunts.

Others I have picked up at yard sales, in jumble shops, and estate sales.  Some of the things hang on the walls in my kitchen and breakfast nook, and some are used often when I slice a tomato or open a can.

This particular book is my own and has proven itself invaluable over the many years I have turned its pages searching for yet another intriguing thingamajig whose name and function is as yet unknown to me.

With 136 pages filled with descriptions and photos of various and sundry of the many whatsis created during the Depression era this work is truly a worthwhile resource for the serious collector of green handled kitchen gadgets.

Most of us who collect soon realize that we will need to restrict our enthusiasm to a single color, there were red and black and green and other colors of gadgets produced.  I chose to collect green.

Or we will need to choose a single item to collect, from among the many baking tools, beaters and whippers, or choppers and mincers or sifters and strainers to mention a few of the plethora just waiting to be lifted from a dusty box and taken home by an enthusiastic collector.

I find this particular book to be a valuable resource.  Acknowledgements and introduction are presented on 1 single page each.  The author particularly notes that Ekco Housewares Company provided opportunity for Celehar to research with A & J and Ekco catalogs from the 1920s to 1950s and even provided catalog pages for illustrating pages in the book.  These are particularly useful when trying to pinpoint a particular item, use, handle type and the like.

For many years the kitchen was the step child of the home, was often a dank room hidden at the back of the house, or was even a separate small building near the back door.  At the turn of the century when wood both heated homes and provided fuel for cooking; just preparing a meal during summer tended to heat food, home and everyone concerned.

As role of the kitchen and use of the room and its accoutrements began to change; came a need for gadgets and gizmos for preparing foods and garnishes.  The kitchen became a focal point of the home providing a place for gathering and eating and talking.  Where a knife for cutting and a large spoon for beating once typified much of the tool ware found in kitchens suddenly there were Baking Tools and Knife Sharpeners, Bottle Openers and Mixing Tools.  And, there was color.

The Table of Contents lists the pages, and categories of items available for collectors as well as showing some of the evolution from the single Hoosier Cabinet to the broad array of gizmos produced.

Table of Contents lists American Kitchens 1920 – 1950 with pages in color as well as black and white; Manufacturers from A to Z, 8 pages of these are listed; A Guide to Trademarks covers 6 pages, and proves invaluable for the serious collector; Finding and Purchasing Kitchen Tools provides cautionary notes including that as antique kitchen gadgets become less available, prices soar and how to care for these gems so that the price paid is not diminished with handling or improper washing technology.   Background, Color and Dating information is 9 pages, filled with information regarding when, by whom and what was being produced.

Dating and Patent Numbers is presented as a single page.

Then the gadgets themselves are listed:

Baking Tools beginning on page 68 lists cookie cutters, cake and sandwich cutters, biscuit cutters, revolving cookie cutters note:  how anyone made cookies with these things I have yet to deduce, I have one and a more gnarly gizmo I have yet to attempt to use, but it looks good hanging up near the ceiling in the kitchen.  Dough blenders, Pie Crimpers, Pastry Blenders that appear much as a lifter might to the uninitiated, as well as rubber scrapers, rolling pins and an interesting pie lifter are all shown and described in detail over 5 pages.

Beaters and Whippers beginning on page 73 includes spiral whisks resembling modern gizmos, as well as flat wire whips in various oval to round design with green or other colored wooden handles as well as a series of vari shaped whisks and a one hand automatic eggbeater are detailed.  More recognized egg beaters of the handle, rotating wheel and blades in the bowl are shown over 4 pages.  Beater and Bowl, or Ptcher Sets and even an electric powered glass bowl and beater, 1933, rounds out the section.  I will admit I have too many egg beaters, and a Beater and Bowl or two as well as several of these whisks.

Bottle, Can and Jar Openers, Lifters and Wrenches begins on page 82 and details the varied gadgets provided for removing corks and/or lids from bottles, and lids hand powered stab in the point and move the can opener around the top of the can by hand gizmos.  These lethal devices did remove lids from cans, I suspect at times to the tune of a good bit of cussing and reaching for bandages, I have several of the things, and on occasion have used one or the other for removing a lid.  Cut was never particularly even or smooth, but somehow lids did get removed and meal were prepared.

A & J and Ekco began manufacture of Miracle™ Can openers, the miracle design continues in use to today.  Handheld openers and wall mount openers appeared during the depression era, many continue in use to the present.

Jar Lifters are devices used then and now by home canners for lifting jars filled with fruit, jams or vegetables from pots filled with boiling water.  The early lifters proved a notable prototype and the ones available on the shelf at the big box store for home canners today has changed little from those offered during the 1930s.

Jar Openers and Wrenches are used for loosening or tightening metal screw type lids and caps.  Again, the design offered during the depression era is used today for the same use.

Choppers and Minders are hand, and mechanical and rotary chopping and mincing devices.  Some are a simple blade with wooden handle while others are a tad fancier, all provide the same function, and maybe save some fingers from scrapes and cuts as onions or other items are chopped into tiny bits using something other than a sharp kitchen knife.   I have several, they spend most of their time hanging on the wall.  I do have a glass cup or jar and chopper or two.  Choppers include those using up down movement to raise and lower the bladed end of the chopper in the glass cup or bowl, others, especially handy of chopping nutmeats,   have handle or key turn chopping device which screw onto top of glass jar.

Rotary Mincers were offered by several companies and were used for fine chopping of meats, fruits, vegetable, orange rind, parsley and even homemade noodles.

Cutting Tools (Other Than Knives) begins on page 94 and details fruit and vegetable ballers or scoops, butter curlers, corers, and parers, grapefruit corers and French Fry Cutters, Fruit pitters, and garnishers, graters in several different designs as well as ice cream scoops and ice picks of many designs.  Parers, peelers, slicers  and graters are included in this section .

Juicers begins on page 102 and includes Juice O Mat™, Orange Flow™, Speedo Super Juicer™ and KwikWay™ are shown and detailed.  Also included are the Handy Andy, and Universal fruit juice extractor.

Knives and Knife Sharpeners beginning on page 105 includes Bread knives, Cake and Pie Servers, as well as wooden handled pie and cake servers, and grapefruit knives, fruit knives, paring knives, spatulas, Utility Knives, and spatulas as well as Knife sharpeners.  I have several knife sharpeners, and have yet to be able to sharpen a knife using one of them.  Sharpening Stones and Rods are also shown, these I can use for sharpening.

Mashers, Pounders, Ricers, Food Presses, and Food Mills begin on page 109 and feature many designs of mashers including round, mesh and one with spokes.  Pounders are wooden while meat tenderizers resemble axes with blades and ax type head.  Ricers includes a whisk type, a push through mesh and one design that has continued to today with a perforated basked and pull down pressure panel.

Measuring Tools begins on page 113 and details measuring cups, scoops, spoons and scales.

Mixing and Cooking Tools beginning on page 116 features beaters resembling lifting tools and slotted spoons as well as a Foley Fork, strainer resembling a lifter and a slotted mixing spoon.  Coffee pots show a Drip O Later™ while a hand powered Toddy mixer with clear glass tumbler reads A meal in a glass.

Popcorn poppers, the handled basket for holding over flame type are detailed as is an early electric popper.  Also noted are egg poachers for cooking eggs sans shell in boiling water, these are used by submerging the gizmo with egg into the water.

Egg lifters resembling ones seen today had wooden handles.

Two and three tine forks for lifting and holding or stabbing meats and vegetables.  Ladles and strainers, pan drainers, basting spoons and scrapers are all discussed.

At one point I delved into early electric toasters, and I was pleased to see one of the very early ones shown in the book, and its twin sitting in my breakfast nook.  Lifters, often referred to as pancake turners came with wooden handles and slotted, pierced and dotted blades.

Early electric waffle irons were a far cry to the ones we enjoy today.

Sifters and Strainers beginning on page 124 commence with Rotary Sifters, while any dry ingredient might be sifted we called the one in Mama’s kitchen a flour sifter.  The basic design has changed little, a circular metal tube, mesh at the bottom, turn handle and a wire or other device for moving the flour through the mesh.  Depression era sifters had wooden handles for turning.

Horizontal Sifters feature a shaker type, to and fro sifting while trigger action sifters were used via a squeeze handle.  Arthritis in my hands precludes my using mine for sifting, it hangs on the wall.  I do use one having a green handle.

Tea and Coffee Strainers used to separate liquids from solids by pouring through wire mesh featured wooden handles and perforated metal or mesh bowl. Strainers can be found in a variety of sizes.

This book also discusses a few other specialty items, ones I do not collect including curing iron, heated on stove, non-electric, various brushes and mops, and shows a green handle electric iron.

Children during depression era as now enjoyed toys similar to those mom used, and various toy kitchen collectibles can be found.  I do not collect these.

Writer Celehar offers a 2 page Bibliography. And closes with an A – Z index.

All in all this is a well-researched detailing many of the gadgets and gizmos offered during the Depression era.  For the novice or serious collector this book helps guide the understanding for use, desirability and function of the many items we can locate, perhaps use and fill our shelves, walls, cupboards, rooms, barn …

Prices are indicated for items, a note of caution, because a price is shown as the going rate today may or may not mean a thing in the market place.  Items in a dusty box may be marked as .25 each and show in the book as $2.50 buying the item with a notion that a quick profit is to be made may or may not come to fruition.    Prices vary from state to state, collector to collector and economy of the country, condition of the item, etc.  I buy only things I like, and have a set price I am willing to pay before I go to the sale, shop or whatever.  If the seller will not haggle and the price is too great I walk away.

Knowing what you are looking at may be a huge advantage.  I take my book along when I go on a foraging mission. My book published many years ago is still timely, the items showcased have not changed, only prices listed would be different in a newer edition.  I will continue to use mine despite loose pages and notes penned in margins.

Well written, well researched, good resource  Happy to Recommend Kitchens and Gadgets  1920 to 1950 by Jane H. Celehar.

Product Details

Paperback: 156 pages

Publisher: Wallace-Homestead Book Co

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0870693581

ISBN-13: 978-0870693588

Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 8.3 x 0.4 inches




3 thoughts on “You paid HOW MUCH for that thing?”

  1. Aside from cookbooks, I also collect vintage enameled Spatterware mixing bowls and roasters that are displayed on the Shaker-style hutch that my father built for my mom on her birthday.

    You’ve done a fine job here, Molly – I will begin with a network search at our (tiny) local library.

    Thanks for the info –


  2. I think you must have had a lot of fun writing this review – it comes through vividly. Reading, I’m reminded of many of the gadgets my mom and grandma had in their kitchens, especially a green-handled egg beater. I loved that thing – it was more like a toy than a cooking utensil. There were other items too, like a green glass orange juicer, a toaster that had side-doors ( ha) , and some kind of spoon mom used at Christmas when she would make candy. And her hand-embroidered kitchen towels, so pretty.

    Thank you for the review and the memories! Seconds please?


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