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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Frigidaire: 1926

Frigidaire: 1926

Washington, D.C., 1926. "Industrial Exposition, Frigidaire." A chilling display at Washington Auditorium. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
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From a former Frigidaire dealer

An educated guess, 25 percent of our Frost Free (as opposed to Self-Defrost) refrigerator/freezer sales came because someone poked a hole in the refrigerator coils with an ice pick or screwdriver whilst trying to manually defrost the unit.

What I like most ....

is the price tag on the chair!


As said, some people refer to refrigerators as "fridigdaires." Our next door neighbors had a Kelvinator brand refrigerator which was always referred to as the "kelvinator."

My family bought a new house in 1932. Would you believe a new house at the depths of the Depression? Well, we had several incomes -- my mother and father, aunt and uncle, grandmother and her unmarried sister all lived there with me as the only child. The house had out first electric refrigerator -- a GE with the sealed cooling coils on top. No more putting a sigh out for the ice man -- 15 lb or 30 lb.

[So Mom missed the iceman's visits, did she? - Dave]

Frigid Air

The name Frigidaire was so entrenched in my mind a as refrigerator and corporation that it never even occurred to me until about 3-4 years ago that it stood for "frigid air." That was one of those "DOH!" moments.

It sure looks worn out for being so new

A little history on the Washington Auditorium. This is one place I had no idea ever existed until now.

So Cold

That even the glass negative got frostbite.


They defrosted the same way my mother did in the 1950s. You shut it off and left the door open (if it was not already open). You put in pots of hot water to hasten the melting. You put old towels on the floor to catch runoff. You became impatient at the mess and day job and you chipped at the frost on the coils. Then if you punctured a coil and the freon began escaping, you cried. Then your husband bought a new one.

Yes, there is a brand of pudding marked "Royal" but who knows if it is the same Royal, or where it is manufactured.

This photo looks like sub-basement storage, a "long after the affair has ended" type of deal. The wicker chairs are where the workmen sit to eat lunch and play a few games of rummy. Of course the moldy negative may be leading me in the direction too.

Interesting photo. I like it.

"Royal Pudding!"

"Rich Rich Rich in Flavor,
Smooth Smooth Smooth as Silk,
More Food Energy than
Sweet Fresh Milk!"

(I also haven't seen that on grocery shelves in many years.)

Too cool!

So this might have been the inside of the Delco-Light showroom that I incorrectly associated with 32-volt rural generators.

[The location is Washington Auditorium at 19th Street and New York Avenue. The Industrial Exposition, held March 4-13, was hosted by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. - Dave]

From what I have read, this is about one year before domestic refrigeration hit the tipping point, where the entire middle class either had it or was on their way to getting it. Kind of like I-Pods a couple of years ago.

I've never seen a showroom photo from this era. I find the open evaporator coils very fascinating. They would have been impressive at the time, all of those small ice crystals you could touch. A generation later, this wouldn't have been a selling point. By 1956, automatic defrost was the new thing. People were tired of defrosting, and visible frost would have been a big turnoff!

And yes, the flip side of the Freon comment is the refrigerants in use before Freon. Methyl formate and sulphur dioxide were the choices. Both of these were highly toxic. If inhaled, the gases reacted with water to form strong acids that would burn the lungs. Thomas Midgely, the inventor of Freon, made a public demonstration of inhaling the gas and then blowing out a candle, so well known was the hazard of the earlier refrigerants.

Note that these Frigidaires have belt-driven compressors. That means a shaft seal that can leak. The GE Monitor Top, which hit mass production in 1927, was the first to have a completely sealed compressor, with the motor immersed in the refrigerant. These cannot leak unless pierced, and all refrigerators today use this design.

Something's missing

Where are the potted palm trees? It seems like every trade show booth in the 1920s had some. Did the Frigidaire people forget to order them?

Free he die ree

is how Hispanics pronounce the brand name Frigidaire when they mention a refrigerator. In many Spanish speaking countries, this is what a refrigerator is called by.

The compressor on the right

is larger than the engine in my Corolla.


After Kinetic Chemical Company did well with Freon, they changed their name to Kinetic Freon Company, and then later to just KFC. Ironic, but today cold chicken stays edible only because we have modern refrigeration.

A Brrr-illiant Idea!

Back in the Forties we had a Frigidare refrigerator. It even had a light inside which came on as the door was opened. A miracle to children, some of whom could still remember when homes were lit by oil lamps. Our "Fridge" was a newer postwar version than the models shown in yet another fascinating photo from Mr. Dave.

The motor and compressor, by then, were a single enclosed rotary unit that hummed away happily until well into the Sixties. Like all mechanical cooling devices of the era, it was a real chore to defrost with pans of water dripping as you moved them to the sink with melt from the iceberg above.

We were fortunate to have a Fridge, as many still had ice delivered in block to their Ice Boxes, this ice delivery lasting into the Fifties. (The pantry in our home had a drain in the floor expressly for the melt from an icebox; my father had the washing machine installed there to use the drain.)

The new Fridge stood proudly in the kitchen, next to the gas stove still lit by wooden "Strike Anywhere" matches from their holder handy by.

The block ice for ice boxes came by truck when bread and milk still arrived in wagons behind horses. Coal and coke for heating and hot water, by then, came by truck, but some districts still had horse wagons for bag coal, wood and kindling. We had a fireplace set up for coal burning, but it was never used.

Note the clever advertising displays to the right, showing the motor and belt-driven reciprocating compressor and the cooling unit above in a pyramid-like rack. The belt-drive compressor versions were noisier and went clunk-clunk-clunk, their motor and compressor often situated on top of the cooling compartment to access the belt and for cooler operation.

The Brilliant Idea is the word Frigidare written in frost on a cold pipe just to the right of the column in the photo. A Brilliant concept, and housewives could see and touch the cooling action, possibly clinching a sale?

[The potential customers at this industrial exposition were more likely restaurant and hotel owners. - Dave]

Doesn't look very "corporate."

The obvious damage to the negative doesn't help, but the shabby look of the building, the worn and weathered looking signs, along with the dingy look to the whole scene makes it look pretty low-rent for a subsidiary of GM. The General had owned Frigidaire for some years by the time this was shot. Lots of interesting things to look at, though. The frosty signs are neat, and do look like something a GM division would supply.


I love the coolant tube demos covered in frost! I also need that center four-door white enamel number.That would be fantastic in my kitchen.

Frigidaire became a generic name

I remember when regardless of the brand of refrigerator you owned whether it be a Crosley, Admiral, or Westinghouse, it was always referred to as a "frigidaire" since it was one of the earliest and most dominant brands.

It's the same with "Jello" and "Kleenex". They were first so their brands became the generic name for their type of product. Is Royal pudding even made anymore?


I'd sure like to climb into the Wayback machine and go to this showroom. Early refrigeration systems interest me. 1926 was before DuPont's introduction of Freon. In 1930, General Motors (owner of Frigidaire) and DuPont formed the Kinetic Chemical Company to produce Freon. It would take about 80 more years for science to condemn Freon as an environmental evil.

I wonder how often they defrosted those icy displays?


That is an extremely dour array of appliances.

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