Sunday, November 14, 2010

Historical Tidbit: Why it was Called the "Monitor Top" Fridge

You have seen the old refrigerators with the large cylindrical compressors on top. Apparently the public dubbed them with what turns out to be not a product name but a nickname, the "Monitor Top."

In 1927, General Electric introduced this "Monitor Top" refrigerator, so-named by the public because of the resemblance of the exposed compressor on top of its cabinet to the cylindrical turret of the Civil War gunship, the Monitor.

"Depending on the model, these modern home appliances could cost from $300-$500 [$3,674-$6,124 today]. Compare that with the price of a new 1927 Model T Ford at $380 [$4,654] fresh from the factory."

The Civil War was about as distant from 1927 as WWII is from 2010. It is remarkable to DD that the Civil War had made an impression so lasting that more than six decades later, it was vivid enough in collective memory to provide a bit of slang.

I tried to think of a modern-day item that folks have nicknamed for an aspect of World War Two. The only vague example I could think of was the occasional joking reference to weight control as a "Battle of the Bulge" and, more tenuously, Godwin's Law, which states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Are there others I'm missing?

P. S.: The photo was stolen borrowed under fair use provisos from this site, which says, "This is the refrigerator I have in my kitchen, working, and using less energy than a modern refrigerator. The GE model CK refrigerator was their best, made in 1934 and using SO2 (sulphur dioxide) as its refrigerant gas. General Electric made the best and most reliable electric refrigerators for the home starting in the late 1920s with their DR model. The only model that routinely holds up and runs in present times without trouble is the CK, however." INSTANT ENVY!


Dusty D said...

Except that I"m a sissy about having a lethally toxic gas just waiting to leak out and kill me. Other than that, it's swell.

Dusty D said...

Oops, I detected an assumption: that it was the Civil War itself that was so memorable. Maybe it was just the vehicle, the distinctive-looking, then-technologically-advanced ironclad, the Navy's first.

Lisele said...

I lust after the look of these old Monitor tops. It's just what I'd really like for my 1927 kitchen. But, instead, I have an energy star GE Profile -- which cost, coincidentally, about 1/3 what we paid for our car.

Dusty D said...

You can have old Monitors refitted. They take out the harmful gas and leave the empty compressor, but fit it with a modern compressor in the back.

I went so far as to price some. When I learned that they start in the mid-5K range, I came back from going so far.

Felix said...

I suppose the "lethally toxic gas" explains why people used to put refrigerators on the porch instead of inside the house. At least that way if the unit leaked it would kill a few chickens first, giving the humans time to notice what was going on.

Dusty D said...

Felix, hmm, I don't know enough about refrigeration history to know whether those porch-fridges were monitor tops or old-fashioned iceboxes. Just wondering: is it so that Monitor Tops were the ones on the porches?