A Chilling Tale

1947 Kelvinator Refrigerator Model 209

Mention an Australian summer and ice-cold drinks, ice creams, icy poles and ice cubes all spring to mind. But, this hasn’t always been the case.

Before 1857, ice was shipped to Australia from America. After then, it was manufactured in Melbourne and shipped all around the Australian colonies. An ice works was eventually constructed and started making ice in Sydney from 1864, and some regional centres established ice factories soon after.

From around the 1890s to the 1950s, urban homes relied on a delivery from the ‘ice man’ to keep food cold. If you were too far from the  ice works, Coolgardie Safes and their evaporative cooling were the only way of keeping food cool.

The use of ice to keep food fresh changed after affordable refrigeration was invented, towards the end of World War One, in the form of kerosene-powered fridges. These remained a luxury item until after the Second World War when electrical fridges such as this 1947 Kelvinator refrigerator became widely available.

This fridge was purchased by Tamworth butcher Jack Allen and his wife to replace their ice chest. Marketed to housewives to assist them manage the household budget by preventing food waste from spoilage, the home fridge was seen as a point of pride in a modern household even if it did add to the weekly list of chores by requiring weekly de-icing of the small freezer section. A small price to pay for an ice-cold drink on a hot summer’s day.