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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

The refrigerator, a cornerstone of modern kitchens, has evolved significantly over the past century. This evolution is vividly captured in the advertising used to promote these essential appliances. Vintage refrigerator ads from the 1900s to the 1990s not only reflect the technological advancements and design trends but also offer a window into the changing societal norms and lifestyles.

The Early 1900s: The Advent of Refrigeration

In the early 20th century, refrigeration technology was in its infancy. Early ads often featured iceboxes, which used large blocks of ice to keep food cold. However, by the 1920s, electric refrigerators began to appear in the market.

Early refrigerator ads focused on convenience and novelty. They highlighted the ability to keep food fresh longer without the need for regular ice deliveries. Brands like Frigidaire, one of the first to mass-produce electric refrigerators, emphasized the modernity and sophistication of their products.

The 1930s to 1940s: Streamlining and Innovation

The 1930s saw refrigerators adopt the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles, with sleek lines and chrome details. Ads from this era often depicted these models as symbols of luxury and modern living. During this period, refrigerators began to include features like automatic defrosting and more efficient cooling systems. Advertisements highlighted these technological advancements, aiming to appeal to the modern housewife’s desire for convenience and efficiency.

The 1950s: A Boom in Consumerism

Refrigerators during this time underwent significant changes in both design and technology. The 1950s refrigerators were often larger and more feature-packed than their predecessors. They were designed to match the aesthetic of the modern American kitchen with sleek lines and a variety of colors. Manufacturers began to introduce refrigerators in pastel shades, such as pink, turquoise, and yellow, reflecting the era’s love for bright and bold colors. This was a departure from the white and metallic finishes that had dominated earlier designs.

The advertising for these refrigerators was equally vibrant and optimistic, often featuring imagery of happy families and luxurious lifestyles, suggesting that owning such a modern appliance was a step towards a better living. These ads not only promoted the refrigerators but also the ideal of the American dream, where every household could aspire to have a well-equipped, modern kitchen.

The 1960s and 1970s: The Era of Style and Substance

The 1960s and 1970s saw a shift towards more avant-garde designs in refrigerators. Manufacturers began to experiment with avant-garde designs, incorporating a broader and more vibrant color palette. Refrigerators were produced in a range of bold and psychedelic colors, mirroring the era’s fashion and design trends. Popular colors included bright oranges, greens, yellows, and even patterns or prints, which were inspired by the pop art movement and the growing hippie culture.

Advertisements from this period reflected these design changes. They often featured refrigerators in contemporary, sometimes even futuristic settings, emphasizing the appliance as a fashion statement and a reflection of the owner’s personality. The ads resonated with the era’s overall aesthetic, which was characterized by a sense of freedom, experimentation, and a break from traditional norms.

The 1980s to 1990s: High-Tech Features and Efficiency

During the 1980s and 1990s, refrigerators witnessed a technological revolution, marking the transition into the era of high-tech appliances. This period was characterized by significant advancements in functionality and convenience, driven by a growing consumer demand for more efficient, user-friendly, and feature-rich household appliances. The introduction of digital technology into refrigerators was a game-changer. Digital temperature controls allowed for more precise regulation of temperature, which not only improved food preservation but also enhanced energy efficiency.

Ads from the 1980s and 1990s often emphasized features like adjustable shelving, which allowed for customizable storage space to accommodate different food items and containers. In-door water and ice dispensers became a highlighted feature in these advertisements, showcasing the convenience and luxury of having chilled water and ice readily available.

#1 Westinghouse “completely balanced” Electric Refrigerator ad.

Westinghouse "completely balanced" Electric Refrigerator ad.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#2 White Mountain Refrigerators advertisement.

White Mountain Refrigerators advertisement.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#3 Ice Safe duplex refrigerator ad, Wenham Lake Ice Company, July 18, 1874.

Ice Safe duplex refrigerator ad, Wenham Lake Ice Company, July 18, 1874.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#4 Frigidaire refrigerator ad, 1957, showing interior.

Frigidaire refrigerator ad, 1957, showing interior.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#5 Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company ad, 1901.

Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company ad, 1901.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#6 Leonard Cleanable Refrigerators ad, Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company, 1892.

Leonard Cleanable Refrigerators ad, Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company, 1892.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#7 Monroe refrigerator advertisement, 1901.

Monroe refrigerator advertisement, 1901.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#8 Wilke Porcelain Refrigerators ad, Wilke Manufacturing Company, 1901.

Wilke Porcelain Refrigerators ad, Wilke Manufacturing Company, 1901.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#9 McCray porcelain tile lined refrigerators ad, 1899.

McCray porcelain tile lined refrigerators ad, 1899.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#10 Wickes’ System refrigerators ad, Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, 1900.

Wickes' System refrigerators ad, Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, 1900.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#11 Monroe porcelain refrigerators ad, Monroe Refrigerator Company, 1903.

Monroe porcelain refrigerators ad, Monroe Refrigerator Company, 1903.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#12 Lightning Freezer ad, North Brothers Manufacturing Company, 1901.

Lightning Freezer ad, North Brothers Manufacturing Company, 1901.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#13 Betty Furness with Westinghouse refrigerator, CBS ‘Studio One,’ Oct. 1, 1956.

Betty Furness with Westinghouse refrigerator, CBS 'Studio One,' Oct. 1, 1956.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#14 Woman and children with cake from refrigerator, circa 1948.

Woman and children with cake from refrigerator, circa 1948.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#15 Huge open refrigerator with food and girl, advertisement, 1955.

Huge open refrigerator with food and girl, advertisement, 1955.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#16 English Electric refrigerator ad in Country Life magazine, UK, 1951.

English Electric refrigerator ad in Country Life magazine, UK, 1951.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#17 Power master electric fridge with freezer cabinet ad, circa 1950, Britain.

Power master electric fridge with freezer cabinet ad, circa 1950, Britain.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#18 General Electric fridge and freezer ad, 1949.

General Electric fridge and freezer ad, 1949.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#19 Gibson refrigerator ad, March 1952.

Gibson refrigerator ad, March 1952.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#20 Refrigerator Features ad.

Refrigerator Features ad.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#21 English Electric refrigerator “fresh ideas” ad, Country Life magazine, UK, 1951.

English Electric refrigerator "fresh ideas" ad, Country Life magazine, UK, 1951.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#22 Frimotor Norge fridge ad, 1950.

Frimotor Norge fridge ad, 1950.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#23 Kelvinator refrigerator ad, 1934.

Kelvinator refrigerator ad, 1934.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#24 French Sibir refrigerator ad, “…si frais a peu de frais.”

French Sibir refrigerator ad, "…si frais a peu de frais."

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#25 Electric refrigerators Sibir ad, March 1952.

Electric refrigerators Sibir ad, March 1952.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#26 Refrigerator ad, November 1957.

Refrigerator ad, November 1957.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#27 Leonard Cleanable Refrigerators ad, Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company, 1899.

Leonard Cleanable Refrigerators ad, Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company, 1899.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#28 Sigma fridge ad, April 1958.

Sigma fridge ad, April 1958.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#29 Frigeco fridges French ad, December 1932.

Frigeco fridges French ad, December 1932.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#30 WWII refrigerator ad, College Park, Maryland, 1942.

WWII refrigerator ad, College Park, Maryland, 1942.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#31 Woman holding miniature fridge, 1940s.

Woman holding miniature fridge, 1940s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#32 Frigidaire refrigerator ad, circa 1954.

Frigidaire refrigerator ad, circa 1954.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#33 English Electric refrigerator ad, circa 1950.

English Electric refrigerator ad, circa 1950.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#34 Eddy Refrigerator Ice Box ad, Worcester Evening Gazette, June 15, 1898.

Eddy Refrigerator Ice Box ad, Worcester Evening Gazette, June 15, 1898.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#35 English Electric family refrigerator ad, 1952.

English Electric family refrigerator ad, 1952.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#36 General Electric Refrigerator ad, 1927.

General Electric Refrigerator ad, 1927.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#37 Electrolux vacuum cleaner & refrigerator ad, 1950.

Electrolux vacuum cleaner & refrigerator ad, 1950.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#38 Frigidaire refrigerators ad, 1930s.

Frigidaire refrigerators ad, 1930s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#39 Admiral Duplex I9 Refrigerator ad, 1965.

Admiral Duplex I9 Refrigerator ad, 1965.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#40 Frigidaire fridge ad, 1966.

Frigidaire fridge ad, 1966.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#41 Admiral Refrigerator-Freezer ad, 1956.

Admiral Refrigerator-Freezer ad, 1956.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#42 Kelvinator Fridge ad, 1965.

Kelvinator Fridge ad, 1965.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#43 Advertisement from 1956.

Advertisement from 1956.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#44 General Electric Refrigerator, 1928.

General Electric Refrigerator, 1928.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#45 General Electric Refrigerator print ad, 1930.

General Electric Refrigerator print ad, 1930.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#46 General Electric Refrigerator print ad, 1930.

General Electric Refrigerator print ad, 1930.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#47 General Electric Refrigerator print ad, 1930.

General Electric Refrigerator print ad, 1930.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#48 Refrigerator advertisement, 1950s.

Refrigerator advertisement, 1950s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#49 GE Wall Refrigerator, 1955.

GE Wall Refrigerator, 1955.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#50 Icebox introduction, in-home refrigeration leap, 1860s.

Icebox introduction, in-home refrigeration leap, 1860s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#51 Kelvinator Refrigerator 4-Way Cold ad, 1930.

Kelvinator Refrigerator 4-Way Cold ad, 1930.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#52 Frigidaire advertisement, Saturday Evening Post.

Frigidaire advertisement, Saturday Evening Post.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#53 Frigidaire advertisement, Saturday Evening Post.

Frigidaire advertisement, Saturday Evening Post.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#54 Frigidaire Refrigerator, 1934.

Frigidaire Refrigerator, 1934.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#55 Original GE Monitor Top Refrigerator, 1929.

Original GE Monitor Top Refrigerator, 1929.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#56 Frigidaire advertisement, 1927.

Frigidaire advertisement, 1927.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#57 Philco refrigerator ad, 1944.

Philco refrigerator ad, 1944.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#58 General Electric Refrigerator, 1930.

General Electric Refrigerator, 1930.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#59 General Electric Refrigerator, 1930.

General Electric Refrigerator, 1930.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#60 “The American Home” magazine, June 1956.

“The American Home” magazine, June 1956.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#61 GE Steel-Refrigerator ad, 1929.

GE Steel-Refrigerator ad, 1929.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#62 International Harvester refrigerator demonstration, 1950.

International Harvester refrigerator demonstration, 1950.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#63 International Harvester refrigerator ad, circa 1950.

International Harvester refrigerator ad, circa 1950.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#64 Frigidaire Refrigerator Freezer ad, 1964.

Frigidaire Refrigerator Freezer ad, 1964.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#65 NorgeRollator Refrigerator ad, 1934.

NorgeRollator Refrigerator ad, 1934.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#66 Norge Rollator Refrigerator ad, 1938.

Norge Rollator Refrigerator ad, 1938.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#67 Frigidaire, 1948.

Frigidaire, 1948.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#68 Refrigerator with swing-out shelves, 1960s.

Refrigerator with swing-out shelves, 1960s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#69 Two-sided countertop refrigerator, 1960s.

Two-sided countertop refrigerator, 1960s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#70 Wall-mounted fridge ad, 1950s.

Wall-mounted fridge ad, 1950s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#71 GE Refrigeration Center, 1957.

GE Refrigeration Center, 1957.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#72 International Harvester Refrigerator ad, 1950s.

International Harvester Refrigerator ad, 1950s.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#73 Servel Electrolux Gas Refrigerator ad, 1941.

Servel Electrolux Gas Refrigerator ad, 1941.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#74 Frigidaire ad, 1940.

Frigidaire ad, 1940.

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A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#75

A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#76

A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#77

A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#78

A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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#79

A Century of Cool: Exploring Vintage Refrigerator Ads from the 1900s to 1990s

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Written by Matthew Green

Andrew's writing is grounded in research and provides unique insights into the cultural and historical contexts of vintage pieces. Through his work, he aims to foster a greater appreciation for the value and beauty of vintage items.

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