Here are some beauties from a 1931 Frigidaire booklet. According to the Frigidaire website, 1931 was the year freon was introduced as a refrigerant. Previously refrigerators had depended on ammonia and methyl chloride and sufor dioxide which proved fatal in several accidents. Freon, it turned out, wasn't so great either, since the chlorofluorocarbons destroy the ozone layer. See about.com:inventors .
For more information on the history of refrigerators, The History Channel history.com has some good stuff. Including that the ice trade between Boston and the South was one of the first casualties of the Civil War, and then warm winters in 1889 and 1890 created severe shortages of natural ice in the US which stimulated the invention, commercialization and marketing of mechanical refrigeration for fish and for the brewing, dairy and meat industries. Home refrigerators came later, in 1911. According to History.com frozen food storage at home didn't become widely used until the 1940's, so the freezer shown below must have been a luxury- even more so than refrigerators - although they had been introduced in the 1920's. You can see in the Frigidaire post below from 1925 that there are ice freezing compartments.
1931 Frigidaire booklet. Collection PSAW
This is the cover. It follows the theme of mothers and daughters (or sometimes sons, but not as often) standing in front of the wonderful refrigerator. Mothers nurture and feed. And they teach their daughters that they will be doing so for their own offspring. And nothing says loving like a full fridge. Polemics aside, isn't this a gorgeous, compelling illustration. Beautifully rendered to display the warmth and joy of a happy home. I love how the mother and daughter are bathed in a pool of light, the daughter quietly contemplates the new appliance, which you can tell even from behind, while the mother lovingly and casually enjoys her daughter's attitude.
frigidaire 1931. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Chilled puddings. A marvel of modern mechanics. It looks like the girl is eating an apple, and the boy is drinking a glass of milk, so I'm betting that Mom made the treats for dessert and is putting them away, rather than taking them out. Maybe it's Jell-O.
The salesman shows off his wares to....the wives. Somehow the husbands are not in on the decision making here. We can make believe that the two women shopping actually live together rather than with husbands,but we would most likely be imposing a 21st century narrative on an seventy year old moment in history.
If part of the job of advertising is to teach people class behaviors, usually just slightly above the class they are actually in, this one teaches the smooth elegance of shopping in your best clothing, listening quietly, and paying attention to the authority of the salesman in a beautifully appointed showroom. In my own Jewish upper class New York City childhood in the 1950's, we always had to dress up to go shopping. Although my mother encouraged me to wear dungarees for play at home and in the park, if we were going out to a restaurant or to a store or on a trip we always had to wear "nice" clothes. My brothers had to wear ties if they were going four blocks from home, unless it was to the park for sports.
In an alternate universe, the women come home to their new fridge. In the 1931 advertising universe, however, the wife who just bought the Frigidaire is showing it off to her friend. Part of the appeal of the new appliance is that it excites admiration and perhaps even envy from one's friends and neighbors, which is always rather satisfying.
This picture, in my opinion, could be featured in the Museum Of Modern Art. A perfect modernist study of form, line and color.
Lovely, cold ice. At your fingertips. It must have seemed miraculous, really, and so different from having ice delivered for your ice box. Or, if you remember Almanzo in Laura Ingall's Wilder's Farmer Boy, it took three grown men (Father and his two French Canadian hired men), plus Almonzo and his older brother an full, long day to cut the ice from the frozen pond, haul it to the ice house, and pack it tight in sawdust. "Buried in the sawdust, the blocks of ice would not melt in the hottest summer weather. One at a time they would be dug out, and Mother would make ice-cream and lemonade and cold egg-nog."
Ah, so that's where the men were. Off playing golf. Well, never mind. They've come home for brunch, and the wives got on just fine, making some big financial decisions with enough time left over to make a chilled punch. And here comes the ice, fresh from the freezer.
And now, back to the daily day. Making a pie with those eggs and butter? Maybe a ham pie? Because, of course, the ubiquitous ham is sitting there waiting. What a well fed family. How happy they are.
PS: I found another great web essay from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.