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Margarete's Kitchen: 1914

Margarete's Kitchen: 1914

March 2, 1914. "Margarete Ober." The Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano with a nice rib roast. 8x10 glass negative, G.G. Bain Collection. View full size.


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Margarete's beautiful voice!

I was thrilled to find that there is a recording of Margarete Ober's gorgeous Mezzo-soprano voice on YouTube. I don't know if she could cook or not, but she could certainly sing!

This explains our kitchen

This picture finally shows me what the original kitchen in our vintage 1914 home would have looked like. My husband showed me what part of the room would have been original construction and I just couldn't picture a usable space that small. Now I see how the workspace lined up and how the kitchen functioned.

I will never complain about my kitchen being "too small" again! Looking at these old photos is always a fascinating education and it helps me keep things in perspective too.

Treasure Trove

I love looking at old photos of the insides of homes, especially kitchens, which were the hub of activity. They give you a glimpse into another time. Thank you for posting these photos. It was like finding buires treasure.

[Which is really the best kind of treasure. - Dave]

I know this kitchen!

Okay, not really. But if you modernized the stove and replaced the second sink with a counter/cabinet, then this could easily pass for my sister's old flat in the Fan district of Richmond, VA, right down to the tiles on the floor.

That sink!

I lived in a very old house and had a similar sink. It was wretched for washing dishes, because the front of your clothes got wet from the splashing.

I had to get an apron.

Two sinks

There are two sinks in this room, one for washing dishes and pots and another for clothes.

My mother's old house is like this. We have a same sink at the end of the room by window. Same long and narrow room like this but we didn't have the stove in there. It was in another room. Her house was built in 1908 in Ohio. I believe this is true for most Victorian style houses.

Grandma's legs

The sink legs would have been made of porcelain or enameled metal. You can still find these sinks for sale in demolition/recycling warehouses. On a different note, I'm wondering if the handle on the upper left shelf belongs to a meat grinder.

Looks just like my Grandma's kitchen...

...and hers was in an 1860's farmhouse! They eventually let the kitchen spill out into what had been the dining room, installing a new stove and cupboards out there. But you still had to go into the "tunnel" for the sink and oven.

I love the legs on that pedestal sink. I wonder if they were porcelain or painted wood?

Spooky reflection

I love this site! Finally a site for people like me who love to study old photos. I drive my family crazy by studying photos with a magnifying glass and pointing out interesting things in the background.

Look how spooky her reflection is in the glass cabinet!


According to Bungalow Kitchens by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen, the white "subway tile" and open-air sink plumbing was considered sanitary.

I wonder if she crocheted her own pot holder? It's hard to see the stitching but I'm guessing it's single crochet with a decorative picot edging stitch.

[Interesting, although we should note that this is an apartment or townhouse, not a bungalow. - Dave]


The apron was probably for the photographers -- I was recently reminded, reading a housekeeping book, that women used to have specific aprons for being at home with family, usually muslin or cotton, easily washed and willing to accept stains, and then other aprons for having company around the house, generally made of lace. It seems likely that, as a well-bred woman, she would have changed to a "company apron" if someone who wasn't family was around.

[I'd be surprised if Frau Ober did much of her own cooking. The rest of her digs are pretty fancy. - Dave]

If you think this kitchen is cramped....'ve never lived in New York City! My first apartment didn't even have a kitchen sink. The bathtub -- which was in the middle of the kitchen -- did double-duty.

Whose Pet Dish?

Another photo in the LOC's Bain Collection series of Margarete Ober portraits shows her with a pet dachshund.

Mystery dish

What a great photo! Definitely a "one butt" kitchen. I am curious to know what is in the white serving dish on the stovetop. I am guessing a dark, leafy green veg like spinach. No matter, it doesn't look very appetizing! She looks like a delightful hostess.

Lovely Apron

What a pretty lace apron Margarete is wearing. I wonder if it was especially for the holidays/photo shoot, or if she wore it all the time?

As for the above-mentioned pet bowl: my grandmother and her Edwardian-era family would NEVER let an animal in the house, much less the kitchen. (But perhaps they were the exception?)


When this hefty opera star cooks, at least everyone will know when the roast is done.

Cook's Corner

It looks to be two large stock pots or washing tubs stacked lip to lip. Note the handle on the lower one and seam just below the hanging linen. I can also attest to the "cozy" factor of these kitchens. Our bungalow was built in the same year as this photo and the kitchen is one of the smallest rooms in the house!

[Below, another view of the Thing in the Corner. It seems to have a crank handle as well as a tap. - Dave]

Kitchen Description


I don't think it's a barrel

It looks like two large identical pans with side handles, one upside down on the other. Maybe she cooked for the whole company?

Woof? Meow?

She obviously had some kind of pet, as well, witness the waterbowl on the floor. Oh, and heaven help her if she's cooking over a hot stove and there's an earthquake; that storage shelf is tilted to drop the pots and pans on her if that happens.

Tight Quarters

I will never complain about the size of the workspace in the kitchen again.

Never mind the rib roast.

Nice beer barrel, it looks like, just behind her.

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