We’re not sure why this British-made early-twentieth-century cabinet was imported to the United States, but its unique combination of craftsmanship and innovation makes it well worth preserving.

THIS ISN’T JUST a remarkably handsome dental cabinet. It was designed to serve as the electrical hub for an entire operatory, with integrated hookups and controls for a handpiece, light, lathe, sterilizer and more. According to a U.S.-based collector I know, this type of cabinet was big in Europe but never got traction in the States. Equally interesting: Every major part—from the switches and gauges to the fine woodwork—is stamped with the name of its maker, the Dental Manufacturing Co., Ltd. of London, indicating an impressive degree of vertical integration.

This example is made of stunning mahogany you have to see to truly appreciate. Judging by how gracefully it has aged, every inch must have been perfectly cured, cut, stained, varnished and fitted. The porcelain-lined drawers still glide like silk, and the locking doors work like new. But why was this imported to the U.S. in the first place? After all, the Dental Manufacturing Co. was virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic, and the unit itself is made to run strictly on European power and plugs. My best guess is that a captivated American collector scooped it up during a European vacation.

Like many turn-of-the-century manufacturing busi­nesses, the Dental Manufacturing Co. grew to become a powerhouse. Founded in 1874, it boasted a 900-page catalog and 700 employees by 1914. However, following a series of corporate twists and turns, it was eventually spun off to a holding company in 1968 and drifted into obscurity. As far as I can tell, this might be the best-preserved cabinet of its kind, maybe even the only survivor in the U.S. Hands down, it’s one of the neatest items in our dental history museum at Benco’s corporate headquarters in Pittston, Pennsylvania. If you’re a fan of rarities, don’t miss seeing this gem if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

LARRY COHEN, Benco Dental’s chairman and chief customer advocate, has over the past half-century collected hundreds of unique dental artifacts, which reside at Benco’s home office in Pittston, Pennsylvania.