4.01-5: Gilson 1945 Condensing Unit

HHCC Accession No. 2003.033HHCC Classification Code: 4.01-5

Refrigerating machinery by this manufacturer, a uniquely and distinctively Canadian company, made a special contribution to Canada’s material culture of refrigerating technology. The Gilson Manufacturing Co. of Quelph Ontario was part of the new industrialism growing up in the Ontario hinterlands, between the Wars, to service the needs of rural Ontario, much less than the provinces urban elites.

Executed in the company’s distinctive aqua , blue/green, tones it would be a well recognised part of the Canadian refrigeration landscape through the middle years of the 20th century - seen by many as its ‘golden’ years. A condensing unit with belt driven, single cylinder, reciprocating compressor, copper tube and finned, single pass air cooled condenser, and 1/6th HP electric motor, it was assembled on a distinctive cast iron, foundry produced frame, a hallmark of much Gilson’s production of the period, Gilson Mfg. Co, Circa 1945


4.01 Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Condensing Units - Household




Gilson Manufacturing Co, Quelph Ontario



Serial No.:



18x 16x 14’h


90 lbs




Exhibit, education, and research quality demonstrating the distinctive contribution of a uniquely and distinctively Canadian manufacturer of refrigeration machinery through the middle years of the 20th century

Patent Date/Number:

From York County (York Region) Ontario, once a rich agricultural hinterlands, attracting early settlement in the last years of the 18th century. Located on the north slopes of the Oak Ridges Moraine, within 20 miles of Toronto, the County would also attract early ex-urban development, to be come a wealthy market place for the emerging household and consumer technologies of the early and mid 20th century.

This artifact was discovered in the 1950’s in the used stock of T. H. Oliver, Refrigeration and Electric Sales and Service, Aurora, Ontario, an early worker in the field of agricultural, industrial and consumer technology.

Type and Design:

The production and construction techniques employed by Gilson admirably demonstrate those of the period. It was a period in which many small manufacturers of refrigeration condensing units were ‘assemblers’, rather than manufacturers in any other sense. Here component parts, mostly purchased from component OEM’s were assembled on frames of local manufacture, tested and launched.

Special Features:
Performance Characteristics:
Control and Regulation:
Targeted Market Segment:

Gilson employed these condensing units on their own line of household refrigerators as well as on home freezers, among other small refrigeration applications.

Consumer Acceptance:
Market Price:
Technological Significance:

One of an early breed of Canadian made condensing units [along with Kelvinator of Canada, and Universal Cooler} moving from the use of highly noxious SO2 to methyl chloride, heralding the massive swing to the chlorinated hydrocarbon refrigerants by the end of the decade (F12).

Industrial Significance:

The assembly process employed, in the years before more sophisticated hermetically sealed condensing units became popular, allowed small, start-up manufactures to get into a growth market with relatively small capital investment and know-how. This would have a profound effect on the speciality companies such as Kelvinator and Frigidaire , who manufactured a full line of component parts and backed much of the research on which the rest of industry relied.

Socio-economic Significance:
Socio-cultural Significance:

The Gilson Manufacturing Co. were a much trusted supplier to the rural Ontario market, a substantal one in the early and middle years of the 20th century. Their products were sold by the local farm equipment dealers, for example, bring the benefits of refrigeration technology to a first time buyers. Many in the market would not be at all accustomed to the luxuries of 20th century living


G. Leslie Oliver, The T. H. Oliver HVACR Collection

HHCC Storage Location:
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