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    

2 Antique Cast Iron Strap Plate Hinges Barn Doors Gates 17" LongSet Of 3 Antique Victorian Fancy Ornate Iron Door Hinges Steeple TipLarge Lot Of Antique Vintage Cabinet Locks Hinges, Parts, Etc. 4 Vintage Gothic Wrought Iron Door / Gate HingesL1470- Set Of 4 Antique Brass Hinges- Antique Hardware- Furniture Ice Box? Set Of 3 Antique Victorian Fancy Ornate Iron Door Hinges Ball TipVintage Glass Door Knobs Metal Back Plates Drawer Pulls Hinges Spectacular Pair Antique Carved Gilt Bronze Door Hinges,5" X 5",japanesqueVintage Rusty Barn Door Hinges 12" & 10" Lot Of 4Vintage Blw Decorative Metal Door Lock Plates & Hinges & Pins VictorianAntique 14" Iron Barn Door Strap/hinges. Marked Ubc.Complete Set Of Vintage Barn Door Hinges And Door Pull 1 Vintage Antique Ornate Screen Door HingePair Of Ornate Antique Door Hinges- 4"x4"4 Antique Vintage Big Metal Farm Barn Door T Strap Hinges Rustic Old!Antique Vintage Door Hinge Pins Architectural Huge Lot 56 Pieces!!!Antique Victorian Steeple Hinges Great Look 3 By 3 1/2Rare Early 1800's Blanket Chest Strap Hinges Primitive Blacksmith Hand Made Vintage Set Of 6 4 1/2" Harvard P&f Corbin Solid Brass Hinges New Britain, Ct 00Set Of 2 Vintage Solid Brass Cabinet Door Hinges 5-3/4" Long Set Of 3 Antique Victorian Fancy Ornate Iron Door Hinges Ball TipAntique Metal Strap Hinge Architecture Hardware Brass?2 Old Barn Shed Door Rustic 7.5"x4.5” T Strap Knuckled Hinges Gate Vintage PaintVintage Brass Hinges & Corners Antique Vintage Pair Red Of Metal Farm Barn Door Shed Gate Strap Hinges!Antique Middle Eastern Style Hammered Iron Door Hinges Great Look Primitive2 Vintage Small Cast Iron Door Hinge Pins, 2 1/8"38 Old Stanley Cupboard Door Hinges Found In Old Ann Page Peanut Butter JarLarge Lot Of 59 Ornate Victorian Eastlake Style Cast Iron Hinge HalvesLarge Lot Of Ornate Victorian Eastlake Style Cast Iron HingesAntique Door Hinges Ornate 19th Century Stamped Or Cast Iron Bishop Steeple 3 Strap Plate Hinges 19- 1/2" Vintage Barn Door Hinge Gate Hinge Iowa Farm HingeAntique Hand Forged Cast Iron Gate Hinge Pins Lot Of 7Pair Of Nickel Hinges From An Early Ice BoxFarm Gate Hinge BoltsAntique Door Harware Copper Flash Finish Handles, Backplates & Hinges2 Old Stanley Door Spring Hinges Old Stock Pair Antique Plated 3 1/2" Stanley Works Sw Removeable Ball Tip Hinges3 Vintage Brass Door HingesLot Of Solid Brass Small Cupboard Hinges With Screws Vintage Antique HardwareSolid Brass Set Three Antique HingesVintage Old Kansas Barn Hinges 11 Inches Set Of 4Vintage Metal Refrigerator Hinge Repair Piece Part Cooler Ice Box DoorAntique Vintage( 6) Original Cast Iron Door Hinge Pins Architectural Punk ArtArchitectural Salvage;brass Hinges And Door Handle For Old Wooden Ice BoxAntique Vintage Pair Of Metal Cabinet Door Hinges Hardware Ornate Repurpose!Nk] 2 Piece Set Of Vintage National Nickel Plated Hinges - 1 1/2"