Quest for the Oldest NEWS Continues

January 17, 2011
Barb Checket-Hanks

A while back we requested that you search the stacks of old NEWS issues in your offices and elsewhere, so we could find the oldest issue among our readers. We’ve heard from some folks with pretty old issues of The Electric Refrigeration News (our magazine’s first title).

The very first issue date was Sept. 11, 1926. We know, but that is the date. We may need to mention it a few times. Therefore, that is the oldest possible issue date of The Electric Refrigeration News that could possibly be out there. We’ve seen some pretty old issue dates so far; we want to plumb just how deep those waters go.

Going through the hard-bound back issues at our disposal offers an outstanding look at the history of this industry, which had its roots in the burgeoning electric industry.

The late 20s and early 30s, for example, saw increasing installations of early commercial refrigeration and air conditioning systems. That was big news back in the day. An apartment building with refrigerators here, a theater cooled by a monstrously huge air conditioner there - it was all the early part of two rapidly growing industries: climate control and the electric industry.


Home refrigerator sales were also a big business during those hard economic times. These were installed products, and for those who could afford them, they were real status symbols.

During the Great Depression most people were using ice boxes. But the public’s attitude toward them was changing, and not just because of the increased convenience and food safety the new technology offered. Quite simply, icemen had gotten a bad name.

As we reported in the Sept. 25, 1929 issue, some were even calling this relic out as being “incompetent and insolent.” From the perspective of writer Emily Woodward in Advertising & Selling magazine, though, home refrigerators weren’t killing the profession; the quality of their employees was doing it.

“The average iceman seems to be the least competent and most insolent of the many men whose duties bring them into frequent contact with housekeepers. … He is as temperamental as an opera singer and as bad mannered as a subway guard.”

She eventually writes, “Some of these days I am going to buy an electric refrigerator - not because I expect to save money by owning one, but in order to get rid of that first-class nuisance, the iceman.”


The benefits, of course, went far beyond relieving household frustrations. These two industries impacted public health through improved food preservation. They also helped put people back to work. And we still do today.

There must have been some icemen who could read the writing on the wall, who switched their focus to the electric refrigeration trend. We hope they learned a little bit about customer relations.

When you read an old issue, part of you wonders how today’s headlines will read years from now, and how we will be reading them. What will today’s trends be followed by? How could paying attention to today’s news prepare us for tomorrow’s challenges?

They say history repeats itself. There’s only one way to find out. Pay attention.

If you think you have one of the earliest Electric Refrigeration News issues, we still want to hear from you. Contact me: barbarachecket-hanks@achrnews.com; 313-366-7093.

Publication date: 01/17/2011
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