HOME STUDY by Brian Mishler
Ever visited a friend that doesn’t have a refrigerator? Didn’t think so. The all-so common appliance is the unsung hero of just about every kitchen in the developed world.
But consider for a moment how we would live without it, without our banana split!
While Dr. Strickler’s invention is celebrating its 111th birthday this year, the invention of the refrigerator in your kitchen is only celebrating its 102nd birthday.
Inventors began dabbling with artificial refrigeration in the 1750’s, but by and large, the most common form of cooling in developed countries was the icebox. Quite literally, it was a large cabinet with a block of ice in it that kept your food cool. This is why many people still refer to refrigerators as “the icebox.”
If you’ve ever heard air conditioners – especially their cooling capacity – referred to in terms of a “ton,” that is the artificial refrigerator’s equivalent cooling capacity to a ton of ice. (12,000 BTU = 1 ton.)
Other intrepid pioneers of the era used other means. Some homes in our region have springs in their basement. These not only provided some indoor “plumbing” but springs were housed in troughs with varying depths: the deeper end for the large milk cans, the shallower portions for buckets and tubs of butter, cream etc. The water would flow in one end, and out the other. Some springs were housed in a closet type of enclosure in the basement foundation and had shelving built over them to serve as racks for butter, the water below keeping them cool.
These early iceboxes and coolers were only good to keep mostly milk, butter, eggs and just a few items cool; they could not stay as cold as today’s refrigerator. And freezing? No way!
This is why ice cream was such a treat in the early 1900’s: only commercial ventures such as pharmacies and markets had the freezers to store it, and why Dr. Strickler liked to invent new sundaes for his customers.
While residential refrigerators were invented in 1913, it wasn’t until 1921 that they became available. In 923 Frigidaire introduced a self-contained unit that might be recognizable today; but the style that we are accustom to didn’t come on the scene until the 1940’s.
Of course in the 19-teens, before you could run out and buy a refrigerator, someone needed to get the house wired for electricity!
Brian Mishler is the owner of HomeStudy Inc., and a 20-year veteran home inspector. He began performing home inspection after 15 years in the construction industry convinced him that his body wasn’t made for hard labor. Brian is the former president of the Pittsburgh Regional Organization of the American Society of Home Inspectors (PRO-ASHI), and currently sits on the board of Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, a non-profit that rehabilitates homes for disadvantaged seniors and veterans, assisting them with pre-renovation inspection and selection. Brian also teaches a variety of real estate-related classes, and has mentored others seeking to become home inspectors.
He currently resides in Latrobe, with his better half, Carol, their Boston terrier Gizmo, three cats, and three transient college students. When spare time is to be had, Brian can be found on a motorcycle, in a kayak, or hiking in the area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.