You never know the treasures you will run into each day. Last weekend I got my vintage stove that will be going in my new kitchen, and now this week I bought a suitcase made right here in Oshkosh. I was so stunned when I found a travel bag made in Oshkosh. So, once again, I had some history to discover.
The Oshkosh Trunk Company was started in 1902 and operated out of a factory on High St. The firm produced quality wardrobe trunks (exclusively). Its signature line of luggage called the “Chief” was styled with red and yellow striped canvas. In 1927 the company began manufacturing smaller travel luggage. The Oshkosh Trunk Company was acquired by Plotkin Brothers, a Chicago firm, in 1939. The Plotkin Brothers owned several other luggage companies, and added Oshkosh Trunk Company to add quality luggage to its product line. After the merger the Oshkosh company’s name was changed to Oshkosh Trunk and Luggage Company. The company fell on hard times, and the Oshkosh factory was closed in 1961.
Oshkosh Trunk Company (Oshkosh Public Library)
Too bad my suitcase was not the “Chief” line with red and yellow stripes, but I can keep a lookout for one. The plan is to turn this piece of luggage into a craft box for my wife’s sewing and knitting supplies. Another interesting tidbit I found while doing this search was how the “Chief” is making a comeback in small handbags. Apparently someone was inspired by this high-quality line of luggage with the slogan that boasted, “There is none finer.”
My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a home. The kitchen is decked out with steel cabinets, which is really retro but awesome! When we went and toured the home I noticed that the modern electric range had some significant gaps between the cabinets on each side. The realtor explained that the old stove had been removed by previous owners. I never really gave it any thought. I looked up some old kitchen appliance brochures, just to see what late 1940s early 1950s kitchens looked like. I showed my wife and said it would have been sort of neat to have the original stove in the kitchen. Well, good things come to those who wait.
While visiting my in-laws in Milwaukee I acquired one of these vintage stoves by chance. My father-in-law’s friend was also visiting from Portland; he used to live in Milwaukee. We told him about our new house and the vintage kitchen. He told me that the house he wants to sell has an old GE stove in it and we could have it. Sometimes I cannot believe how these opportunities come along. We went over and checked it all over, and the stove is absolutely amazing.
The only mystery I had to solve was the year and model name of this range. I had a category number (C-32) and serial number(7888101) that I found in the oven. One would think that a Google search would muster some answers. This was not an easy task! I found other models of GE ranges but nothing that matched this model. I sort of put this quest on the back burner, but tonight I found my answer! I asked myself, who would know more about GE appliances than GE!? I gave the GE hotline a ring (1-800-626-2005) and asked the customer service representative. I am sure not too many people are calling up this hotline asking about info on ancient appliances. Nonetheless, she was able to tell me that my electric stove was from 1950. She was not able to find out what the name of the model was (Stratoliner, Liberator, Airliner, etc). The search went on!
With very little information available, I decided to go through Newspaperarchive.com and find some answers. I narrowed my years to 1950, and I did a search for “GE Electric Range” in all newspapers. I finally got the results I was looking for. It turns out this model is the GE “Astroliner” electric range. There was no indication of that on the unit itself, but the advertisement I found matches the appearance of our range and the model C-32 I found in the oven door.
I cannot wait to get this oven in our new house once we move in! It will be one step closer to being the original retro kitchen. Maybe a retro refrigerator will be installed one day. How many of my readers remember having or still have one of these old units? What brand do you use?
My wife gives me random looks when I tell her the things I look up online. One minute I am looking up the local weather, and then the next minute I am researching old dishwashing machines. My work takes me into a lot of different homes in the area, and the recent home I was working in had a Youngstown Kitchen. There were the metal cabinets, red counter tops with chrome trim, and the electric sink. Electric sinks were cabinet sinks that had a garbage disposal and a built-in dishwasher. It was a luxury if you could afford to have an automatic dishwasher like this in your kitchen, but Youngstown built appliances “priced to own now.”
Youngstown Electric Sink ( AutomaticWasher.org )
The picture of the electric sink pictured above is similar to the model that was in the home I was working in. It was in rough shape and not been used for years. The owners said they planned on ripping it all out and remodeling the kitchen. It is a shame, but I am not sure if it is usable or able to be repaired. The dishwasher was missing some components and had some rust in the tub. I am sure any parts that are needed to get it back in working condition would have to be salvaged from other units.
There is a guy who makes a hobby out of collecting old dishwashers like this. Mike Haller has been collecting vintage appliances since 2008. He travels around the country looking for these old machines. The article says he also uses some of them! He explained how he would like to start a museum with them. If he does start a museum, I hope he has an interactive part of it where visitors and try out one of these old machines. Look at some of his dishwashers in action by watching his YouTube channel.
I think it would be really fun to get an old dishwasher. Of course it will use more electricity and water, but it will be American made and built to last! I will have to keep my eyes peeled for one of these old units. One source I found, automaticwasher.org, is a great site with a fair amount of information and other collectors that can help. Who knows, maybe someday my kitchen will be a Youngstown Kitchen, but I will have to talk my wife into it first!
I have some new items to add to my collection of Edison memorabilia. Last year I acquired an old, glass bottle that once held battery oil made by Thomas A. Edison Industries. A friend and I went out on the public trail where I found the bottle to search again. He has a metal detector, so we made a day of it to see if we could find more treasure. We did find that casing of what used to be a battery also made by that company. It is in rough shape, but I brought the pieces back with me.
I have not been able to find any useful information pertaining to this battery. One source explains that railroads started using these batteries in signal boxes in 1953. I think I may have also located the patent with drawings of this same battery box. But that is about all I have been able to come up with. I think I will try to trim the front part of the battery out and mend the pieces together to put it in some sort of shadow box. I think it would make for great conversation piece on my wall.
The second piece I managed to add to my collection was found by a co-worker, who then gave it to me. It is a case for a wax cylinder used with the Ediphone (aka Dictaphone). The Ediphone’s were early recording machines. You slid a wax cylinder on the machine, turned it on, and began speaking into a horn. The voice vibrations made an etching needle move up and down and recorded the sound. Pretty amazing technology in its day! When cylinder was filled up, it could be slid back into the protected tube or played back. It’s just another neat piece of history to add to my collection. It will either go up on the shelf, or it might make a nice pencil cup.