A kitchen in 1930 – what do you recognise?

A simple kitchen for a glass worker's family around 1930. Photo by Andreas Praefcke.

Enamel cookware, dishes and candlestick, a black stove with a flat iron and skillet on top, a nice old wooden high chair – nothing too surprising for a 1930-ish kitchen. But if you live in an English-speaking country, there may be things in this German kitchen that seem slightly, or very, unfamiliar.

Enamel shelf with pots of soap, soda, and sand

Do you recognise the little shelf on the left-hand wall with three pots of sand, soda and soap: a characteristic German way of organising cleaning materials in the early 20th century? Nearby is a “modern” touch: an electric outlet. (The wooden apparatus next to it is a puzzle. Could it be glass-making equipment from the workshop on the other side of the wall? Please tell us below if you know.)

Vintage German coffee grinders. 2nd photo by Rosenzweig.

The coffee mill on the wall has a glass cup to catch the ground coffee and a jar above the grinder to store the roasted beans. This type was used in other European countries too – but not in Britain, where you were far more likely to see a tea caddy than a coffee mill. There was a variety of wall mills in the US, another coffee-drinking country.

Bundt pan

Pan for baking Bundkuchen or Gugelhupf ring cake.

There’s a mould hanging on the wall for baking ring cakes. If you’re American you’ll call this a Bundt pan, but they were uncommon in the USA of the 1930s. In Germany and Austria Kranzform (wreath-shape) pans for baking Bundkuchen aka Gugelhupfer have been known for 300 years: ceramic, copper, or iron before the days of enamelled steel or aluminium.

Whisks tenderiser skimmer

No wooden spoons, but quirl-whisks, a skimmer and tenderiser.

Just to the right of the cake pan is a collection of long-handled utensils. At first glance you may think it’s just a set of spoons and spatulas, but these are slightly different. The meat tenderiser in a poor household surely reflects a “schnitzel-oriented” style of cooking, and would not have been owned by a working-class family in England, for example.

handmade wooden whisk

Quirl - for beating, stirring etc. Photo by Andrva.

And then there are four quirls. Three of them haven’t changed much from when they were part of a tree.  Quirl is often translated as whisk but that could be misleading. These are wooden beating and mixing implements and are not used for whisking up snowy peaks of egg-white or cream. German-speaking households would have a schneebesen (snow-broom) for that, a wire whisk, if they didn’t have an electric or hand rotary beater.

A quirl is essential for making some kinds of traditional dumpling! It can also be used for mashing potatoes, making doughy or porridgy mixtures, stirring liquids, and it’s handy for other things too. You can make one from your Christmas tree when the seasonal festivities are over. Quirl means a “whorl” on a plant.


If you like to ID old kitchen items, try the things in a historic English kitchen or a 1920s kitchen in the American West.


Photographers credited in captions. Links to originals here:  main picture and cropped details from it, 2nd coffee mill, quirl whiskMore picture info here


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

dutch margreet October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am

I am a member of a Dutch Historian Society. When reading through last-wills there was named a schuttelketel, translated a disheskettle. I asume this was for washing dishes, cups and the likes after dinner, but I can not get any confirmation. I found your site and I am definitely missing utensils for this very imortant household task. Washing clothes could e done at a weekly bases, but washing up must be done at least daily. I remmebe my aunt owning a sashing-up dolly, a wooden stick with an awful lot of thick cotton strands tied around it to sweep through cups and bowls etc. to get of the remnants of meals in hot soapy water. But what did people use before there were sinks? Thank you if you will investigate this, I have seen bak=ck to 1880 kitchens in museums, but not those before 1800. As europeans emigrated to the US, they must have brought with them at least the ways they did thing “at home”.


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Neil Frame April 9, 2015 at 11:51 pm

Regarding the oven/stove in the picture, could you tell me what fuel that would have used in the 1930s, especially in a working class home. Coke gas or some other type of gas? Would you also happen to know what the manufacture is or could be?

Thank you


Helen Sch. June 14, 2015 at 2:32 pm

The skimmer has a very specialised use- it is for scooping out dumplings from simmering water.


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