Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Story of Frigidaire

An LP on display at a local appliance repair shop:

According to Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.'s autobiography,  My Years with General Motors.  (New York:  Macfadden-Bartell, 1965), in 1918 Mr. Durant, president of GM, bought the Guardian Frigerator Company of Detroit (maker of an "iceless frigerator") with his own money, transferring ownership to GM in 1919 where it was soon renamed the Frigidaire Corporation.  The product had not sold well under its original ownership, and it continued to return a loss under GM's control.  Frigidaire came close to being sold, except that GM had also acquired in 1919, the Dayton enterprises of Charles Kettering, including the Domestic Engineering Company (later to be renamed the Delco Light Company) and Dayton Metal Products. As a result, Frigidaire was moved to Dayton where the engineering and sales expertise of these two other firms could be applied.  The move paid off big time.  By 1925, Frigidaire sales accounted for over half the overall refrigerator market.   It soon became too big to be operated within Delco Light, and was made a full division of GM in 1933.  An important part of the company's success was the development of a new refrigerant.  Existing ones were toxic and actually led to the death of some users.  People took to putting the fridges on their back porch to reduce potential exposure.  Kettering commissioned Thomas Midgley Jr. -- who was the genius behind tetraethyl lead in gasoline -- to find a better refrigerant.  He came up with Freon.  Of course, we now know how bad this was for the earth's ozone layer.  As competition increased (Kelvinator had been around since 1914, but GE and Norge entered the field in 1927 and Westinghouse in 1930) Frigidaire followed their lead and introduced a variety of other kitchen and household appliances.  As for the fridge, the initial ones offered only 5 cubic feet of space, whereas by the 1960's 10 to 19 cubic feet were most common, with a significant drop in price.

For the full story, see this link.

Frigidaire was sold to White Consolidated Industries (originally the White Sewing Machine Company) in 1979, which was in turn purchased by Swedish A.B. Electrolux, its current parent, in 1986.

As for the Jam Handy Organization that produced the record, it was founded by Olympic breast-stroke swimmer Henry Jamison "Jam" Handy.  His commercial and audio-visual company  produced the first animated version of the then-new Christmas story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and over 7000 training films for the armed forces during World War II.  The Jam Handy Organization eventually became GM's choice for the production of its own training materials.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Got to give them credit for thoroughness anyhow!
Come to think of it, this might actually be helpful information for today's younger generation.