First there were ice-houses;

then there were ice-boxes;

then there were refrigerators.

Only refrigerators had problems getting grid of the melt-water. It became ice on the inside walls of the refrigerator.
That’s what makes this advertisement for Gibson Refrigerators so special: this model came with automatic defrosting! Gibson was one of the first manufacturers to sell refrigerators with automatic defrosting.
Who would want an ice-box when you could have this Gibson Refrigerator.

Fifty years before this 1953 adver­tise­ment appeared in Good House­keep­ing mag­a­zine, Frank Gib­son expand­ed his com­pa­ny that man­u­fac­tured insu­lat­ed wood­en ice-box­es.  The two-com­part­ment box­es were lined with tin or zinc. Blocks of ice sat in the low­er com­part­ment and food stayed cool on the shelves in the com­part­ment above. A drip pan col­lect­ed the melt-water—and it had to be emp­tied daily.

 Gib­son called them “ice refrig­er­a­tors” and his com­pa­ny became the largest man­u­fac­tur­ers in the ice-box busi­ness at that time. In 1918 William C. Durant start­ed the Frigidaire Com­pa­ny to mass-pro­duce refrig­er­a­tors based on Alfred Mel­lowes’ inven­tion of a self-con­tained refrig­er­a­tor, with a com­pres­sor on the bot­tom of the cab­i­net that replaced the block of ice. Durant was bet­ter known as a pio­neer in the auto­mo­bile indus­try. You can read about him in this post on our Print­ing Times website.

 In 1931, Gib­son began mak­ing elec­tric refrigerators. 

While getting rid of
the ice-box melt-water
was messy, getting rid of the ice that formed in electric refrigerators was a major problem. Defrosting the fridge was a chore!

Here’s the routine:

Get some absorbent clothes, old tow­els are usu­al­ly pre­ferred, and a large bowl or two for hot water.

Unplug the fridge and take out all the food. Find a place for it on the kitchen tables and coun­ter­tops. Take out the shelves if that is possible—they may be held tight­ly by the ice on the refrig­er­a­tor walls.

Place the bowls of hot water in the fridge to help the ice-removal along but do not chip, scrape or pry at the frost build-up. And do not use a heat source such as a blow dry­er because that could dam­age the plas­tic inte­ri­or of the refrig­er­a­tor. You can even try wash­ing the ice with hot wet clothes.

Be sure to put more tow­els on the floor.

When the ice is all gone, clean the inside of the refrig­er­a­tor with soap and water. Ide­al­ly you will allow the fridge to air dry for at least an hour because wet walls will frost quickly.

Once the refrig­er­a­tor is com­plete­ly dry you can put back the food that has been sit­ting on the kitchen counter for the last hour or more.

It took time. It was troublesome—but not as bad as defrost­ing the freezer!

Gibson didn’t solve the defrosting problem—Westinghouse did, early in the 1950s, when they developed automatic defrosting.

A West­ing­house refrig­er­a­tor adver­tise­ment in the Can­ton Repos­i­to­ry news­pa­per, Sep­tem­ber, 12, 1951, read:

“Only West­ing­house Frost-Free Dares To Offer You A 30-Day Mon­ey-Back Guar­an­tee. We’re so dead sure you’ll agree that West­ing­house Frost-Free is the world’s finest com­plete­ly auto­mat­ic refrig­er­a­tor that we’ll make you this amaz­ing propo­si­tion: If, with­in 30 days after you buy a West­ing­house Frost-Free Refrig­er­a­tor from us, you’re not 100% sat­is­fied, we’ll take it back and refund your full pur­chase price. It won’t cost you a cent — no deliv­ery or removal charge, absolute­ly nothing.

“You can’t lose, so why wait? So, learn now with­out risk what hun­dreds of thou­sands of home­mak­ers have found … West­ing­house Frost-Free means no defrost­ing work or mess or both­er ever again! You just plug it in, set the con­trol dial and for­get it!

“Order your Frost-Free today and you’ll have it tomor­row. You can be sure, if it’s Westinghouse.”

The Gibson advertisement above says very little about automatic defrosting. The focus instead is on the other features

It prac­ti­cal­ly hands you the food … this beau­ti­ful new Gib­son Refrig­er­a­tor with “Swing-out Servers”! Meat lock­er, 2 crispers and shelf—they all swing right to you! 

And oh lady, wait’ll see all the oth­er won­ders of this noth­ing-like-it Gib­son! Auto­mat­ic defrost­ing, big full-width freez­er, door racks and but­ter storer—everything to make this the hand­i­est, roomi­est, most effi­cient refrig­er­a­tor you ever dreamed of! 

So don’t miss this new Gib­son beau­ty with the new “cameo-Cream” inte­ri­or before you make your choice. Vis­it your Gib­son deal­er —now!

When homeowners couldn’t afford refrigerators with automatic defrosting
they could buy either the Paragon “de-frost-it” for $9.95
or the D‑FROST-O-MATIC for $12.95 installed.



Here are links to TV com­mer­cials from the fifties  for West­ing­house refrig­er­a­tors, fea­tur­ing spokes­woman Bet­ty Furness.

And don’t miss this live 1954 com­mer­cial for a West­ing­house refrig­er­a­tor where the spokes­woman June Gra­ham, was sub­sti­tut­ing for Ms. Fur­ness.  It was live: she was unflappable!

The Cameo-Cream inte­ri­or of the Gib­son refrig­er­a­tor was only one of sev­er­al  pas­tel col­ors – like turquoise and pink – pop­u­lar on some mod­els in the late 1960s. Earth tone colours – Har­vest Gold, Avo­ca­do Green and Almond – were pop­u­lar exte­ri­or col­ors through­out the 1970s.