4.02-13: Frigidaire 1937 Condensing Unit

HHCC Accession No. 2003.051HHCC Classification Code: 4.02-13

An innovative adaptation of an air-cooled refrigeration machine of the mid 1930’s, attempting to make it more user friendly, less machine like, by fully enclosing it in its own ventilated cabinet. The identification plate carries the name ‘Frigidaire Electric Refrigerator, Product of General Motors’, marking a significant, somewhat ominous step, in the maturation and pre WWII restructuring of the North American refrigeration industry. The plate also carries the corporate address of Toronto, clearly establishing the company’s residency in Canada, Frigidaire, 1937

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4.02 Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Condensing Units - Commercial




Frigidaire Electric Refrigeration Products, General Motors



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30x 15x 30 ‘h


175 lbs




Exhibit, education, and research quality demonstrating the short-lived period in the development of commercial refrigeration machines, when their machine like character was disguised by surrounding them in their own metal cabinet, motor not included.

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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.

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The restructuring of the North American refrigeration industry prior to WWII, was a sign of the times, as markets mushroomed, market competition ballooned and the costs of engineering, development, production and marketing increased many fold. The result was the need for increased capital and stable operating funding for research and development, which were seen as available from big business. Big business was also getting bigger and where anxious to move into developing markets and defining new profit centres for themselves.

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The positioning of the corporation and the nature of its products, as signified in the name plate of the machine, is a cultural measure of the public mindset of the times. It was a period of great transition, in which the notion of ‘machines’ in the households and main street commerce of the nation was new and threatening to many. The industry was increasingly aware of the marketing challenges ahead, moving the refrigeration machine into the mainstream of Canadian daily life.

The dressing up of the machine in its own sleek metal cabinet was one response. So too was the selling of the term ‘electric’, which was an attempt by Frigidaire to clearly differentiate its products from those of an earlier ‘non-electric’ age. It was a period in which ‘electric’ was associated with the modern and the good, heralding the possibilities of a new easier and more healthful life for all. The icebox was a product of the past, the electric refrigerator one of the future.


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

HHCC Storage Location:
Bibliographic References:

Frigidaire Manual, SER405, products mfd prior to 1937


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