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How Old is Your Farm Sink? We Can Help Date It!

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One thing we get asked a lot is "How can I figure out the age of my farm sink?". While it's not an exact science, and there are always exceptions, there are a few ways to help zone in on the correct era. Below we've put together a timeline showing the history of the farm sink in the US. Use this guide as a starting point to date your specific sink. 

What is widely considered to be the Classic Farm Sink Profile began in the early part of the twentieth century. The high backsplash, ridged drainboard and thick apron are hallmarks of the earliest farm sinks. Ironically, very few of these sinks would have been owned by farmers when they were produced. If you affluent enough to have indoor plumbing in 1920, you were most likely not a farmer. You were also probably not using this sink yourself as hiring someone to do it for you. At this point the sink is focused only on functionality: the high back prevents water from soaking the walls, the drainboard offers a place for dishes to be dried, the apron provides stability as well as a place to rest the lower body. The aesthetics of the sink were not important because the kitchen was only seen by the lady of the house and (more so) her staff.

By the 1930’s indoor plumbing was becoming more common while the role (and inhabitants) of the kitchen were shifting. With the Great Depression in full swing, very few families were able to afford the domestic help on which they’d once relied. The kitchen became a place where the lady of the house was likely to be found: cooking and washing dishes herself. With this new development, manufacturers began advertising sinks that were both attractive and functional for the everyday housewife. In the example above from 1934, all of the functional elements are still present: high back, apron and drainboard. What’s different is how these elements are visually executed. The apron utilizes a decorative tiered design while the formerly rounded corners are now beveled. These slight changes are indicative of the overall Deco mood that had permeated the 1920’s and early 1930’s. These subtle changes reflected a huge shift in both who and how a modern kitchen operated.

Post World War II, America was in an incredibly idealistic frame of mind. manufacturing had managed to pull the country out of the Depression that permeated the 1930’s, creating the modern phenomenon of a Middle Class An ebullient optimism about the future was evident everywhere, including interior design. Gone was the desire for the huge furniture and fixtures that were so prevalent during the 1920’s & 30’s. Americans wanted to look forward and that meant casting off the old, and embracing the new. Sleek, minimalist design was beginning to take hold. And this newly formed middle class embraced it whole heartedly! In the above sink from 1947, one can see these modernist leanings. Gone is the heavy apron from the past. The backsplash has been significantly lowered, while the wall mount faucet has been replaced with a shelf mounted deck faucet. There is an overall sleekness in the design that wasn’t present a decade earlier. New home owners wanted efficiency and sink manufacturers made it their goal to give it to them. 

Through the 1950’s America’s infatuation with Modernism only intensified. Designers and homeowners refined spaces and products, stripping away any elements considered superfluous. With the introduction of tiled backsplashes in the kitchen, the back of the sink was drastically reduced. The rolled rim of the previous decades was also minimized, resulting in a sharper curve than before. The biggest change for the kitchen sink is one that can’t be discerned via still photo: the materials used to make the sink. By the end of the 1950’s, cast iron was all but gone from kitchen fixtures; supplanted by the lighter, easier to manufacture steel. Machinery replaced the hand casting required of cast iron sinks, drastically bringing down the cost of production. Home owners embraced the use of this new material so much that by the late 1960’s, almost all kitchens sported stamped metal sinks.

If you'd like help finding a farm sink from a specific year, shoot us an email! We have a ton of inventory from 1880-1960. We do offer this information in a downloadable format. Click here to open the document in a new window, then right click to save.