Vignette 289 > Refrigerators

GE Fridge

Storage of meat, seafood, dairy products and other food requires refrigeration. In the 19th century, the primary refrigerant, ice, was imported initially from Alaska and later from the Sierra.  The Ice was stored in a large insulated Icehouse in San Francisco that allowed year round deliveries to homes and businesses.  Late in the 19th century, ice began to be manufactured locally in large electricity-powered freezers.  It was commonly referred to as artificial ice.  The supply and distribution of ice became a large successful efficient and profitable business. Mill Valley homes and businesses had iceboxes.  In May 1895, the Mill Valley Record reported that the Mill Valley Market had installed “a fine icehouse for the purpose of keeping meat cool during the summer.”  Home iceboxes were called refrigerators. The electric refrigerator for home use was invented in 1913. In 1930, the introduction of Freon as the refrigerant replacing more dangerous ammonia expanded the electric refrigerator market. Kelvinator, GE and Frigidaire were popular brands. Iceboxes continued to be common in Mill Valley homes until the 1950’s. One reason is that during WW II, production of electric refrigerators had ceased because the factories had to switch to manufacturing products for the armed services.