The birth of the cool

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Refrigerator, 1935, Etna

Like televisions, home refrigerators were produced well before the Second World War, but it was not until the decades after 1945 that they became commonplace in European kitchens. In fact, various forms of refrigerator were invented during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Initially, they were mostly used in industry, such as at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, which installed refrigerator units in 1896. In the USA, some automobile companies acquired refrigerator manufacturers and began selling individual refrigerators in addition to individual automobiles, as when General Motors acquired the Guardian Refrigerator company and changed its name to Frigidaire in 1918.

Adapting the devices to individual homes – and adapting homes to the devices – would take many years. Especially before the Second World War, many refrigerator models ran on gas rather than electricity, making them adaptable to a wide variety of homes.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, 'The birth of the cool', Inventing Europe,


  1. König, Wolfgang. Volkswagen, Volksempfänger, Volksgemeinschaft. "Volksprodukte" im Dritten Reich: Vom Scheitern einer nationalsozialistischen Konsumgesellschaft, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh 2004.

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Where to put the fridge that never came

Refrigerators are now common features of most households in Europe, but not all refrigerators are created equal. Unlike the US, where large fridges became the norm, finding a place for a refrigerator in European kitchens was a complex negotiation between the design of houses and the design of fridges.

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Keeping it cool at home

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