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A Bite Through Time: NABISCO

Every now and then you find a piece at a yard sale that just makes your heart sing and you know you have to find a spot for it in your home. Last summer, I stopped by a yard sale and immediately spotted this old display shelf for the National Biscuit Company. I posted my treasure trove of finds from that yard sale on Instagram that day, so if you follow me there, you may have seen this already.

Nabisco Vintage Display Shelf

I couldn't believe the lettering had survived all these years. Overall the shelf was very sturdy, but it had seen some rough times and had been in storage for a while. It was really dusty and dirty, not to mention the shelves were a mess. Before we get into the restoration of this piece, I wanted to share a bit about the National Biscuit Company.

NABISCO, short for the National Biscuit Company, is a household name that has been synonymous with delicious snacks and treats for over a century. With a rich history dating back to the late 19th century, NABISCO has evolved into one of the world's leading snack food companies. In this blog post, we'll take a journey through time to explore the captivating history of NABISCO and how it has shaped our snacking culture.

The story of NABISCO begins in 1898 when the National Biscuit Company was formed through the merger of several regional bakeries and biscuit companies. The founding members recognized the potential of combining their strengths and resources to create a nationwide presence. This merger gave birth to a company that would soon become a pioneer in the emerging world of packaged snacks.

NABISCO wasted no time in introducing a series of innovative and iconic products that would forever change the way Americans snack. One of its earliest successes was the Uneeda Biscuit, introduced in 1899. These crackers were the first to be sold in airtight packaging, ensuring freshness and convenience for consumers. I can't say that I have ever had a Uneeda Biscuit, but I am sure there were delicious!

Another legendary NABISCO creation came in 1902 with the introduction of the now-famous Barnum's Animal Crackers. Packaged in a colorful box featuring circus animals, these animal-shaped cookies quickly became a beloved snack for children and adults alike. Barnum's Animal Crackers were a part of virtually everyone's childhood. Who didn't love those little cookies? I know I did (do!).

The Oreo, arguably NABISCO's most iconic product, made its debut in 1912. The Oreo sandwich cookie, with its distinctive chocolate wafers and creamy filling, has since become a global phenomenon and one of the best-selling cookies in the world. Over the years, various flavors and limited-edition versions have expanded the Oreo family, captivating the taste buds of people worldwide. If you don't love Oreos, I don't know that we can be friends—there, I said it...

NABISCO continued to innovate throughout the 20th century, introducing other classic snacks such as Ritz Crackers (1934), Wheat Thins (1947), and Chips Ahoy! (1963). These products solidified NABISCO's reputation as a leader in the snack food industry.

The NABISCO brand was eventually sold to Kraft Foods in 2000, forming the global snack food powerhouse we know today as Mondelez International. The history of NABISCO is a testament to the power of innovation and adaptation in the world of snack food. From its humble beginnings in the late 19th century to its current status as a global snack food giant, NABISCO has delighted generations with its delicious and iconic products. As long as there are snack lovers around the world, NABISCO's legacy is sure to endure, offering a sweet and savory bite through time. I know there are NABISCO brands in my pantry—how about yours?

Back to our project!

I knew I wanted to put this in my kitchen. I already had a shelf that housed some cookbooks and a few decor items. I wanted to replace it with the NABISCO shelf, but it needed to be CLEAN and restored before it would cross the threshold of my kitchen.

Fortunately, the shelves were easy to remove. They were attached with a metal rod through the center of the shelf attached with wing nuts on each side. For me, the shelves had taken the brunt of wear and tear of the last century. I didn't want to strip the entire piece and lose the amazing lettering on the display. I thought refinishing the shelves would achieve the look I wanted.

shelves before sanding

There was a collection of dirt, paint and Lord knows what else on these boards. I cleaned them, let them dry and then attacked them with my sander. I used various grits of sandpaper from 80 to 240 remove the grunge. The paint required a wire brush and a scraper. I didn't want to lose all the character of the age of the shelves, I just wanted them to be clean enough to be in my kitchen.

Sanding a shelf

After multiple rounds of sanding, the boards wound up looking like this. I was satisfied with the amount of patina on the boards so I unplugged the sander. I cleaned all the sawdust off the boards and selected a stain to match the base of the shelves—or so I thought. It looked like it matched when I put it next to the base, but in reality, it turned out a bit lighter than I would have wanted. I had already added a coat of polyurethane when I discovered it didn't match so well. C'est la vie!


For the base, I scrubbed it clean of the layers of grime. I was extra gentle on the two areas where the lettering was—I didn't want to lose any of that. After I cleaned it, I used Restor-A-Finish in the Walnut to bring the wood back to life. It worked beautifully.

finished NABISCO shelf

I reinstalled the shelves to the base. I think where I went wrong with the color of the shelves was I matched the color before I used the Restor-A-Finish on the base. I think that product really brought out the richness of the wood. Overall, I was really pleased with the outcome.

Now it was time to load it into my kitchen!

I went through my collection of cookbooks and purged the majority of them.

piles of cookbooks

Yes, this is the pile of cookbooks that didn't make the cut. You may be able to tell that I have (had) a slight obsession with Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. The famous plaid cookbooks that were a staple of every home in America. The irony is that I don't really it was time to get rid of the fantasy that I might become a gourmet cook at this point in life. It just wasn't going to happen...

NABISCO shelf with kitchen decor

I removed the old bookcase and moved this one into place. My trimmed down collection of BHG cookbooks now fits on one shelf and I can display some of my yard sale/auction finds on the remaining shelves.

NABISCO shelf with Better homes and gardens cookbooks

NABISCO shelf with Elsie the cow, roosters and chocolate molds and Winona lake Dairy milk bottle

NABISCO shelf with pottery pitchers, Dundee Marmalade crock and rulers

I love how it turned out. I was actually able to use another small bookcase I had under the window to catch some of the overflow.

shelf with cookbooks, kitchen decor and crocks, cookie cutters

Now everything has a place and some of my treasures have been purged as well (coming soon to my booths!).

Thank you for reading my blog! If you would like to see more, follow me on Facebook, Instagram,and Pinterest! Just click on any of the social media links above! Thanks for following me on the junking adventures!

Below are some links to products I used in this project. Disclaimer: Junk is My Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Link to Amazon store

Below is an image to pin to Pinterest if you would like to save this idea!

NABISCO Shelf with kitchen decor


Sep 14, 2023

Oh my goodness! I love this! You did a wonderful job. Looks so beautiful! I love the row of cookbooks. I only had 2 of the red & white cookbooks, and I just purged the one from the 70s and kept the 60s.

I enjoyed your history of Nabisco. Luckily, we can remain friends, as I cannot pass up an Oreo.

As I was cleaning out my pantry last week I discovered an empty animal cracker box like you described and have it displayed on top of my cookbooks. In my area they still sell the same box pkg at Stater Bros, and it's so darling. I remember one year baking a "circus" cake and decorating the sides with t…

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I'm so glad we can remain friends! I mean, who doesn't love an Oreo! The animal crackers are comfort food for me! I grab a box every now and then! Thanks for following my blog! I truly appreciate you!


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