Defrosting the History of the Fridge

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1950s  Sub-Zero begins selling its “built-in” refrigerators; that is, fridges that don’t protrude beyond the surrounding cabinetry. This gives people the notion that they can custom design their kitchens around their favorite appliances.

1952  Crosley releases the chilled drink dispenser: a rudimentary tank that allows the user to store anything from juice to milk or water. Turn a spigot, and have the beverage flow through the door.

1952  International Harvester, an agricultural machinery company, releases a line of fabric-covered refrigerators with patterns to match custom window curtains.

1953  As kitchens and their appliances get bigger, the General Air Conditioning Corporation takes the opposite route by manufacturing a compact unit that houses a stove, a sink, a freezer, and a refrigerator all in one. A similar model is sold today.

1953  Servel, an Indiana-based company, releases the first automatic icemaker. The customer must reach into the freezer and grab the ice.

1953  Mamie Eisenhower’s pink dress from her husband’s presidential inauguration sparks a craze in pastel-colored fridges, as well as autos. (Incidentally, many refrigerator companies are owned by automobile companies at this time.)

1954  Designer Harold Van Doren’s distinctive V-handle refrigerator for Philco hits the market. A double set of hinges allows customers to open the door in either direction. Though this model is popular, the heavy door is known to occasionally come off its hinges and fall to the floor.

1954  GE releases a revolving shelf similar to a lazy Susan. Condiment jars fly out of the fridge as bored kids repeatedly push the button that rotates the shelves. A few years later the shelves are modified to fan out like a deck of cards when the door is opened.

1955  Kelvinator introduces the Foodarama, the first side-by-side refrigerator (two doors opening from the middle). Within this gigantic model, customers have a surplus of drawers and compartments, many of which are designed to accommodate specific products like cans of frozen juice.

1955  GE debuts the first wall-mounted fridge, which sits next to the kitchen cabinets.

1955  80 percent of American homes now have refrigerators.

1958  Frigidaire releases a frostless fridge. Previously, the inside of the coldest part of the fridge was covered in ice crystals and had to be defrosted periodically.

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