Possum Belly Baker's Table?

Discussion in 'Furniture' started by spaghetina, May 20, 2016.

  1. spaghetina

    spaghetina New Member

    Hi, all! I picked up this table earlier for $80. The seller wanted $100 for it, and I hemmed and hawed, but ultimately decided that these don't present themselves every day here in California, so I bit. It's missing the cutting boards, but I'll stuff something in there at some point.

    So, here's the thing, I know (or I think I know, lol) that it's a possum belly baker's table, but I'm trying to find out some more information about it. All the seller could tell me was that she purchased it a few years back from a 98-year-old man, and it had belonged to his mother. I've done a lot of googling, but I keep ending up with a multitude of Pinterest links that don't tell me anything (frustrating!). The odd thing is that the table came with a separate top that's not attached. The seller said she bought it that way, and has no idea why there's another piece. When packing it away, I discovered that the top that IS attached slides apart, like a leaf should fit into the middle. I'll get a photo of it later, but from what I've read about baker's tables, this isn't a normal feature. I'm attaching a photo that was posted on craigslist, but if someone needs another one, I'll try to snap one later.

    Any chance someone's seen or heard of something like this before?

    Attached Files:

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  2. lauragarnet

    lauragarnet Well-Known Member

  3. Bdigger

    Bdigger Well-Known Member

    I just googled antique bakers table...and in the photos area there were several like yours shown. from the links you can go to the page. Didn't have tome to investigate further. but it may help you pin down more info if you try it.
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  4. lauragarnet

    lauragarnet Well-Known Member

  5. Bdigger

    Bdigger Well-Known Member

    Is the extra top the same material? I found a couple listed with extra tops to use for rolling out dough. One had a marble top for that.
  6. Bdigger

    Bdigger Well-Known Member

    I could picture the top separating to add a stone or marble piece to use for cutting or rolling out dough.....but I don't know anything about these......but it makes sense to me.
    yourturntoloveit likes this.
  7. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

  8. lauragarnet

    lauragarnet Well-Known Member

    Oh! I think I misunderstood. I thought you were looking for a tall cabinet top that fit by sliding onto the back.
  9. spaghetina

    spaghetina New Member

    Possum bellies are considered precursors to the Hoosier cabinets, for sure. It's no surprise that I'm obsessed with Hoosiers, too. ;)

    Oh, nice! I'll do some more googling with those terms. Thank you!

    That makes total sense - I hadn't thought of that. The top is also wood, but I'm not sure if it's the same type of wood because everything's painted black. The extra odd thing is that only the two ends of the top that's attached now, which is made up of 3 boards, slide. The one in the middle is nailed to the table frame. So, if it was meant to accommodate a leaf in the middle, someone screwed up and eliminated that as an option.

    Nope, the separate part is just a flat sheet of wood that's the same size as the existing, attached table top. I do imagine that at some point, the table had a hutch meant to sit on top of it, but a lot of these tables seem to show up without the hutches.
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  10. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

    I should have added in my about reply that possum belly table were earlier than "Hoosiers." They date from c1900 to c1930. Hoosier cabinets were named for the company that made them, Hoosier Mfg. Co. of Indiana. According to the following article possum belly baker's table usually started out as cabinets with a hutch or cupboard type top that sat on top of the table.

    From some of my research, it seems many of the cupboards didn't last as long as the tables. It seems several people that have refinished the tables have replaced the tops with tops from Hoosier cabinets. I have a Hoosier cabinet in my breakfast room. It has been refinished with the doors removed to display my small copper, pink, etc... luster collection and a few transferware plates.

    --- Susan
  11. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

    Gee, by the time I got back to reply, my replies were redundant!

    --- Susan
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  12. Rayo56

    Rayo56 Well-Known Member

    Very nice pick-up! Did the sausage grinder come with it??
  13. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    I am not understanding the slide apart top stuff. Perhaps the extra top has something to do with this? Otherwise, these are pretty generic and there is not a whole lot to learn about them. They are what they are. Used to be wanted but no so much these days. The black paint probably does not help this all that much.
  14. spaghetina

    spaghetina New Member

    Lol, but thank you for replying!

    Were sausage grinders normally included with these things?

    It's the same idea as this, except instead of the pieces pulling apart to make the table longer, they pull apart to make the table wider, if that makes sense: https://www.google.com/search?q=sli...UIBygB&biw=1908&bih=872#imgrc=aDT38YL7Zsp69M:

    Well, it seems as though that'd be the idea, except that since it's 3 boards instead of two and the center board is stationary, it's just confusing.

    I respectfully disagree that there's not a whole lot to learn about them, but I'm new to this, so what do I know? ;) I do think that saying that they are what they are, is sort of like saying a painting is a painting, regardless of artist, craftsmanship, or time period, and for me, that's simply not true. Clearly this table is no van Gogh and the black paint is most definitely hideous, lol, but I'm still curious about the history of these pieces. After all, that's part of the fun of acquiring antiques!

    I've only just learned from this thread that Hoosier manufactured these, but since there were several "knockoffs," I'm wondering if they, too, manufactured these types of tables/cabinets. I've also seen ones with various types of legs, possibly indicating manufacturer or approximate manufacture date (more accurately than just narrowing it down to a few decades). But maybe since there's not much interest in these, nobody has cared to do much research about them, other than that they're out there. When you mention that they used to be wanted; was this years ago, or decades ago?

    My first love is, and always will be vintage and antique cast iron cookware, the history for which is generally much more accessible, so I'm new to this whole furniture thing.
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  15. clutteredcloset49

    clutteredcloset49 Well-Known Member

    I have been at this since 1978, started just when the kitchen collectibles were really kicking in.

    Although I am very familiar with these baker's tables, Hoosiers etc., I have never ever heard them called a possum belly table.
    Is this one of the new terminologies?

    The Hoosiers/Sellers and other cabinet makers had sliding enamel tops for rolling pie crusts, cutting cookies, kneading bread. Could this be what you are referring to in regards to the extra top?
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  16. spaghetina

    spaghetina New Member

    I really couldn't tell ya where I first came across that term - maybe an antique store or even Craigslist? - but it seems to be one of the best ways to distinguish these from some of the other baker's tables without the bottom bins. It's certainly descriptive, and it always stuck with me because I thought it was a cute name. I just googled "antique baker's table" though, and came up with quite a lot of photos of these things. Lauragarnet mentioned that they also go by a few other names, so I'm wondering if it could be a regional thing, too, although it seems like out here in California, we never have cool lingo for our stuff.

    At first I too thought that maybe it was supposed to be a sliding top, like a Hoosier, but then I grabbed the other side, and it also slid out; so both pieces slide away from the middle, leaving one board nailed between them. Because of that, it really doesn't seem like it's meant to slide out from under something, like the enamel tops slide out from under the Hoosier hutches. Instead, it seems like it's meant to expand, but that nailed-in piece is the one weirdo factor. I'll have to see if I can snap a photo tomorrow.
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  17. clutteredcloset49

    clutteredcloset49 Well-Known Member

    I'm in CA too.
  18. spaghetina

    spaghetina New Member

    What I meant to say was that maybe the person labeling it as a possum belly was originally from a region where they were called that, whereas here, they're "baker's tables." The woman who sold it to me called it a baker's table too. :)
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  19. gregsglass

    gregsglass Well-Known Member

    I wonder where the name possum belly came from? I grew up in Western PA and we always called these bakers table. The Hoosier cabinet came later. We had both but never heard them called possum belly. Learn something new here every day.
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  20. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    Here in Illinois (and also Indiana), possum belly bakers cabinet is a common term that goes way back. I imagine these originated here in the Midwest as so much furniture of this type from this era did. I don't think Hoosier invented these but they sure did improve upon them by adding bells and whistles.

    When I say that they are what they are and there is not a lot to learn about them, I am saying that there is not a lot of specific information out there to be found on these earlier cabinets. Many companies made them and the details have been lost to history. It also doesn't matter as to value unless you have a maker's tag for Hoosier or Sellers. This pre-dates the hey day of these companies anyway, so a moot point.

    What does matter is this top configuration. Without seeing what you are talking about, my guess is that the top is probably not original. The second top you have may be the correct one as I have never seen an expansion version with these. Stationary or slide-out on some models. However, if made in CA, there could be something different I haven't seen. CA is not known for a lot of traditional furniture makers but who knows?
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