Anoka County Fair: Home of the White Frost Fridge
By Rebecca Ebnet-Desens
Welcome to Anoka County Fair week and all the festivities that go along with the tradition of gathering together to celebrate agriculture, community, and the legacy of our area! You’ll find us at the historic farmhouse once again, chatting on the front porch and putting together a puzzle or two. Funny enough, one of the puzzles we usually solve for visitors is just what is that thing in the corner?
Well, friends, you’re in luck. No, it’s not a washing machine—though that’s the best guess of anyone. My personal favorite? An ice cream maker. Because we all need that amount of creamy yumminess. Actually, it’s an icebox. A good-old fashioned place to store ice so food would stay chilled as long as the ice lasted. This one, however, looks a bit different that your more recognizable wooden chest with handles and a zinc lining. Why, you would like to know more? Of course.
First of all, let’s clear up one thing: the ice box was known as a refrigerator before “refrigerator” meant that picture holder in the kitchen that plugged into the outlet. Once mechanical cooling was invented and people could afford the new device, they needed a way to differentiate between the two. Hence, the icebox came into being.
The ice box on display at the farmhouse at the Fairgrounds is a White Frost brand. These had a door on the front that opened to a lazy Susan style shelf that revolved for easy access to food at the back of the refrigerator. The ice itself rested in a compartment at the top, allowing the cold air to naturally fall through the food chamber and the resulting ice melt to be collected in a tray below. Most popular in the early 1900s, White Frost ice boxes promised a cleaner, more sanitary way of storing food, as well as a more aesthetically pleasing piece of furniture to have in your kitchen, “…only sanitary refrigerator on the market, not a splinter of wood, no waste of ice, clean and odorless,” read one ad in 1908 while another boasted “…sparkling, cleanly white…harmonizes so well with the modern white kitchens” in 1925.
The White Frost ice boxes were manufactured in Michigan, having received a patent in 1906. The president of the company, Hugh L. Smith, had made a name for himself as a hardware entrepreneur and owned two other companies, including the Boeck Stove Company. According to the website, homethingspast.com:
Charles H. Boeck patented various stove designs and other inventions too. His 1906 refrigerator patent describes him as assignor to the Jackson Metal Stamping Co. In the next few years he patented some improvements to the icebox. His 1919 patent for the water cooler attachment used a different company name: White Frost Refrigerator Co. White Frosts were sold through dealers in many different states and were also available by mail order from Mechanic Street in Jackson. The price in its first few years was about $30, with a $20 end-of-summer bargain in Paterson NJ. By 1924 a store in Painesville OH was selling one at $74, reduced from over $90.
The introduction of Freon and other chemicals in the 1920s expanded the refrigerator market during the 1930s. Home freezers as separate compartments, rather than simply a space for ice cubes, were introduced in 1940. By the time World War II ended and the Suburban age took hold of American, the discretionary income families enjoyed meant the refrigerator jumped on the fast-track to becoming the necessary appliance we rely on today.