In the 18th and 19th centuries, hinges served two important purposes. First, doors were heavy, so hinges had to be strong enough to support their weight. Strap hinges served this utilitarian purpose very well, but when a door’s design demanded something more, a large rectangular hinge gave metal artisans ample surface for decoration.

Strap hinges were frequently attached to doors with thumb latches, the precursors to door knobs. The length of a strap hinge helped distribute the door’s weight, while its wrought-iron construction gave it plenty of strength. The decoration on strap hinges was usually minimal—hammer marks in the surface, bevels at the edges, a shape such as a circle at the end.

Large rectangular brass, bronze, and iron butt hinges, on the other hand, received more design attention, even though their leaves remained hidden between the inside edge of the door and its jamb. A hinge’s barrel, inside of which was the hinge’s pin, often offered of sample of the hidden decoration on the hinge’s leaves, which would be fully revealed only when the door was opened.

Naturally the decorations on hinges followed those on the door knob itself, as well as on the escutcheon that surrounded the keyhole. On front doors, the designs might also be repeated on the door knocker. These practices were particularly widespread during the Victorian Era, when Gothic, aesthetic, and Greek revival styles were popular. Later in the century and into the 1900s, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts hinges were paired with their respective door knobs and plates.

In addition to engraving designs on the leaves and barrels of hinges, artisans also had a good deal of fun with the finials that decorated either end of the pin's barrel. There were plenty of plain round ones, of course, but others were shaped like church steeples or chess pieces, their tiny surfaces decorated with everything from geometric patterns and floral motifs to lion heads.

The trouble with most vintage hinges for people living in modern homes is that 19th-century hardware dimensions don’t always match 20th- and 21st-century doors and jambs. The good news, though, is that this relative incompatibility makes hinges fairly affordable, whether you want to put them to use or just admire them for their beauty. If you fall into the former category, consider a vintage screen-door hinge, whose bulky barrel houses a small, strong spring.

As with door knobs, some of the 19th-century American hardware manufacturers to look for include Russell & Erwin, Corbin, Sargent, Clark, and the Metallic Compression Casting Company.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Alloy Artifacts

Alloy Artifacts

A tool collectors’ dream, this site is a deep repository of photos and info on 20th century hand tools and the co… [read review or visit site]

Old Woodworking Machines

Old Woodworking Machines

This collective website, which started as an online discussion forum, now also includes a large database of manufac… [read review or visit site]

Drainspotting

Drainspotting

Josh and Cam Larios have created this site enabling people to upload and 'tag' photos of historic or artistic manho… [read review or visit site]

A Millers Falls Home Page

A Millers Falls Home Page

Randy Roeder has carved out a niche for himself with his fine website devoted to the history of the Millers Falls C… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

4 Vintage Gothic Wrought Iron Door / Gate HingesComplete Set Of Vintage Barn Door Hinges And Door Pull 17 Antique Eastlake Victorian Antique Cast Iron Hinges 2-1/2 X 2-1/2 & 3 HalvesLarge Lot Of Antique Vintage Cabinet Locks Hinges, Parts, Etc. Vintage Glass Door Knobs Metal Back Plates Drawer Pulls Hinges Spectacular Pair Antique Carved Gilt Bronze Door Hinges,5" X 5",japanesqueAntique 14" Iron Barn Door Strap/hinges. Marked Ubc.Vintage Rusty Barn Door Hinges 12" & 10" Lot Of 43 Unique Vintage Metal Door Box Cabinet Hinge Ornate Design Restore CraftAntique Vintage Door Hinge Pins Architectural Huge Lot 56 Pieces!!!Misc. Vintage / Antique Latches And Hinges Hardware Salvage Lot 4 Antique Vintage Big Metal Farm Barn Door T Strap Hinges Rustic Old!1 Lot Of 28 Assorted Vintage Cabinet Hinges - Mostly Brass Finish1 Vintage Antique Ornate Screen Door HingePair Of Antique Hand Forged Blanket Chest Trunk Strap Hinges Primitive Folk ArePair Of Nickel Hinges From An Early Ice BoxAntique Victorian Steeple Hinges Great Look 3 By 3 1/2Vintage Rusty T-hinges Lot Of 6Antique Door Harware Copper Flash Finish Handles, Backplates & Hinges4 Bronze Eastlake Victorian Shutter Hinges - Cabinet Cupboard Door 1-3/4 X 2-1/43 Strap Plate Hinges 19- 1/2" Vintage Barn Door Hinge Gate Hinge Iowa Farm HingeAntique Middle Eastern Style Hammered Iron Door Hinges Great Look PrimitiveLot Of Solid Brass Small Cupboard Hinges With Screws Vintage Antique HardwareAntique Door Hinges Ornate 19th Century Stamped Or Cast Iron Bishop Steeple 8 Antique Barn Door Strap Hinges Steel Cast Iron Rusty Patina 6-12" 2-10"5 Rustic Vintage 10" (5" X 5")strap Hinges Hardware Fence Gate Barn ToolAntique Door Hinge 3" X 3" Victorian Ornate 1800's Steeple TippedPair Antique Plated 3 1/2" Stanley Works Sw Removeable Ball Tip Hinges38 Old Stanley Cupboard Door Hinges Found In Old Ann Page Peanut Butter Jar Antique Vintage , Hinges Latches, Knobs, Brass,copper, Wood Metal LotVintage Rusty Barn Door Hinges 16"+ Lot Of 4Antique Vintage Cast Iron Ornate Victorian Door Hinge Part Vintage Lot Of Metal Hinges Cabinets, Repurpose Or CraftsVintage Hand Hammered Copper Drawer Handles/ Pulls & Hinges Lot Of 36 W/ Screws*vintage*large Gate Barn Metal Hinges*rustic Decor*door Hinge Lot*hanging*4*nr*2 Old Stanley Door Spring Hinges Old Stock Vintage Lot Of Metal Hinges For Trunk ?? And 4 Weird Hooks ??Antique Brass Hinges2 Butterfly Hinges Door Cabinet Vintage Architectural Salvage Hardware Free ShipCast-iron Shutter Hinges Set 2-left & 2-right HardwareLarge Lot Of Antique Hardware Knobs Hinges Pulls Antique LocksUnusual Barn Door, Gate,door Heavy Ornate Strap Hinge 4" X 6 1/2" Lowden,stanley4 Vintage Stanley Sw Brass Offset Hinges Cupboard HardwareNk] 2 Piece Set Of Vintage National Nickel Plated Hinges - 1 1/2"Lot Of 4 Ornate Victorian 2.5 X 2.5 Door Hinges Steeple Tip Vtg 1800's Antique Lot Of 2 Ornate Victorian 4 X 4 Door Hinges Ball Tip Vintage 1800's Antique6 Antique Barn Door Strap T-shaped Hinges National 7.5" Down To 3.75" Lot 4Lot/assortment Of 7 Vintage And Antique Hinges