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General Electric Monitor Top: "Makes It Safe To Be Hungry" Part Two

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Uploaded on May 16, 2009

General Electric revolutionized the way we keep food in our kitchens. They did not create the first electric refrigeration machine, but they designed an energy-efficient system using a motor that sat on top of the cabinet rather than underneath. After many years of experimentation they started selling residential models through regional power companies, and subsequently through commercial dealers. Their most prolific dealer was Rex Cole in the Greater New York Area. Beginning with the earliest Monitor Tops in 1927, Cole took out full-color advertisements in national magazines, and made contracts to install central refrigeration (with the power plant in the cellar) in numerous apartment buildings. He even had some of his showrooms designed by the most artistic architects of the era. The "Monitor Top" reigned supreme until GE introduced a "flat top" model in 1937 that remained the standard for more than half a century.
Announced to the public in June 1927, this is the machine that revolutionized the household refrigerator industry. Unlike its rivals, it did not require fans, belts, shaft seals or joints. Note the earliest models have open coils, the nickel-plated spear hinges, porcelain panels, a nickel trimmed cabinet, and a rounded porcelain evaporator (where the ice trays are kept). The earliest models had a vertical relay box. From this small beginning, sales amounted to 7 percent of the national refrigerator sales that first year. Between 1934 and 1937 they sold more than a million units each year. The "icing unit" rests on top within a neat circle of white coils that circulate the refrigerant (in this case sulfur dioxide) to the chilling unit inside the cabinet. Because of its resemblance to the historic Civil War vessel, the Monitor, it was given a nickname that has lasted to this day. Engineers Christian Steenstrup and Walter Timmerman developed the first DR machine (Domestic Refrigeration), the first to be called Monitor Top. The nickname is attributed to advertising manager Walter J. Dailey.
Early G.E. cabinets were made for them by outside sources, such as the Seeger Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, a firm that made expensive built-in residential refrigerators. Other cabinets were made by Bohn, Heintz and Jewett. The cabinets were shipped to Schenectady where the icing unit was lowered into the cabinet using a special hoist (where are those hoists today?. We could use them). In 1929 G.E. manufactured their own cabinets, which were now all steel and devoid of nickel trim, in Erie. The last Monitor Top was made in 1937, and the flat-top dominated the refrigerator industry.

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