|Tag(s):||refrigeration, refrigerator, general electric|
|Course:||“Historical Perspectives on Technology,” Widener University|
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, household refrigeration was seeing improvements that would encourage more and more Americans to add this piece of technology to their kitchens. In this particular advertisement, published by General Electrics in the late 1920s, they were trying to sell their all-steel refrigerators. General Electric used the idea of food safety and reliability to push the importance of their product. In one respect, GE pulled at the heartstrings by discussing the safety of refrigerated food for a family, yet they also were business savvy and discussed that repairs were virtually unnecessary. A GE model of refrigerator was an obvious choice for any reasonable family.
A huge concern at the time was potential illness in the family due to food spoilage. The GE advertisement actually mentions that, “Physicians agree that 50 degrees is the danger point. Above that temperature, bacteria multiply alarmingly.” This advertisement was making sure that families, particularly housewifes, were concerned with keeping their food at a safe temperature. In his book, Refrigeration Nation, Jonathan Rees also discusses how important food safety was to the refrigerator consumer.
Refrigerators were not completely trusted at this time. People were used to costly repairs, so GE was trying to prove that their new model was efficient and worth the cost. As Rees pointed out, “Much of the advertising centered on the inadequacy of the refrigeration technology that came before electric refrigerators, namely, the ice industry.” This reassurance was seen in the advertisement when it mentioned that, “There are more than 350,000 General Electric Refrigerators in use and no owner has ever spent a single dollar for repairs or service.”
This increase in efficiency was caused by new technology. There were compressors and seals that were developed at this time that ensured the new refrigerators would be superior to their predecessors. There were advances in ammonia compressors and the way they were able to work made them much more reliable and easy to use in the everyday home. This improvement in technology was intended for the purchaser of the refrigerator, generally the man of the house. While the advertisement showed a woman and her child, GE knew that the person making the final decision was the man who purchased the refrigerator, and so needed him to be convinced of its’ worth.
During this time refrigeration was being converted into the now standard household refrigerator, but many people still used an ice box with daily ice deliveries to maintain their food from spoiling. General Electric and other companies had to be aggressive with their advertisements to convince families that they needed this new technology to improve their quality of life. GE knew that they needed to not only discuss the benefits of keeping the food safe, but also the ease of use. People no longer had the constant expense of paying the iceman, but they had to stress that there would not be excessive repairs that would in turn make the refrigerator more costly.
Refrigeration was not a new technology, but a compact household self-sufficient refrigerator certainly was a new concept in this technology. With these advertisements, refrigerators became the norm in many American households. People were impressed with advertisements and wanted to try this technology for themselves. This exciting new technology and promising advertisements coupled with the new lower prices of refrigerators made the industry boom. By 1928, the number of refrigerators sold grew exponentially for a total around 468,000; another attestment to how important refrigerators were becoming.