June 17, 2024

The Monitor Top Refrigerator





General Electric did for the refrigerator what Ford did for the automobile.  Believe it or not, in 1922 a Model-T Ford cost about $450 while an electric refrigerator cost $714, putting it out of the reach of most people.  In 1927, General Electric changed that with a refrigerator which sold for $215.   GE believed so much in its new product that it committed $18 million to the mass production of those refrigerators and another million dollars to advertising them to the public. One early ad showed a young boy looking in the refrigerator with the caption: “The food he eats is the man he’ll be!  Guard his food by safe refrigeration—Keep it below 50 degrees always.”  Another showed a mother with two small children and a caption: “Your children…Is their food safe? ”  Over a million of those first GE Monitor-Top refrigerator models were produced.  It was a good investment because by the 1930s, 60% of households in the US owned a refrigerator.  The ice box era was over.


This refrigerator was called a “Monitor-Top” because the compressor on top of the unit looked much like the gun turret on the Civil War battleship USS Monitor.  That  basic design of the GE Monitor-Top refrigerator remained the same from 1927 until 1936 although a 1935 ad showed a new flat top model as well. Also interesting was that models in that ad  were advertised as beginning at $77.50.  The Great Depression was being felt by everyone.


The Canal Commission Museum has a Monitor-Top which was used by the Pioneer Drug Store to store medical supplies.  Pioneer Drugs was owned for many years by the Wahmhoff family and was located at 309 N. Main Street.  It was in business until the middle 1970’s. 


The museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 3 and on Thursdays from 9 to noon.  Visit us to see the Monitor-Top as well as other items from the Pioneer Drug Store.



Reprinted from the Delphos Herald, March 9, 2013

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  1. Barbara Dillard says

    I have a monitor top refrigerator I use in my 1900 house still works great better than the new ones that don’t last I love it as it fits in with all of my antiques

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