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Founded1914; 107 years ago (1914)
Defunct1986; 35 years ago (1986)
ProductsCommercial refrigeration for food service applications
OwnerElectrolux AB, took over ownership in 1986

Kelvinator was a United States home appliance manufacturer and a line of domestic refrigerators that was the namesake of the company. Although as a company it is now defunct, the name still exists as a brand name owned by Electrolux AB. It takes its name from William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, who developed the concept of absolute zero and for whom the Kelvin temperature scale is named. The name was thought appropriate for a company that manufactured ice-boxes and refrigerators.


Kelvinator ad from 1920
Kelvinator refrigerator, c. 1926

Kelvinator was founded on September 18, 1914, in Detroit, Michigan, United States, by engineer Nathaniel B. Wales who introduced his idea for a practical electric refrigeration unit for the home to Edmund Copeland and Arnold Goss.[1]

Wales, a young inventor, secured financial backing from Arnold Goss, then secretary of the Buick Automobile company, to develop the first household mechanical refrigerators to be marketed under the name "Electro-Automatic Refrigerating Company."[2] After producing a number of experimental models, Wales selected one for manufacturing.

In February 1916, the name of the company was changed to "Kelvinator Company" in honor of the Irish-Scottish physicist, Lord Kelvin (William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin), the discoverer of absolute zero. Kelvinator was among some two dozen home refrigerators introduced to the U.S. market in 1916. In 1918 Kelvinator introduced the first refrigerator with any type of automatic control.[3]

Frustrated by iceboxes, the Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company introduced a porcelain lined "Leonard Cleanable" ice cabinet.[4] Kelvinator began buying Leonard's boxes for its electric refrigerated models. By 1923, the Kelvinator Company held 80% of the American market for electric refrigerators.[2]

On July 3, 1925, Kelvinator bought Nizer Corporation in a tri-party merger valued at $20,000,000.[5]

In 1926, the company acquired Leonard, which had been founded in 1881. Kelvinator concentrated its entire appliance production at the Grand Rapids factory in 1928.[4] That year, George W. Mason assumed control of Kelvinator. Under his leadership the company lowered its costs while increasing market share through 1936.

In 1936, Kelvinator introduced the "Kelvin Home", which was one of the earliest attempts to market in-home central air conditioning and heating to ordinary consumers. Customers could choose from a number of different home designs, all of which were equipped with climate control systems and the latest electric appliances, and were advertised to cost about $7,500 for a six-room house.[6][7] The first Kelvin Home shown to the public was located in Livonia, Michigan and attracted thousands of visitors.[8] A number of surviving homes are registered historic properties, including several in the Rosedale Gardens Historic District in Livonia[9] and the Kelvinator House in Albuquerque, New Mexico.[10]

British operations[edit]

In 1926, Kelvinator Limited, England, was started in London. From simple merchandising of the products of the American factories it grew until it was producing much of its own equipment for the British market. In 1946, it was considered that the time was ripe for this unit to expand and be self-contained in its manufacture of Kelvinator Equipment, and the London manufacturing activities were moved to Crewe and greatly expanded with a further 19,000 square metres (200,000 sq ft) of floor space. The Crewe factory was shared with Rolls-Royce Motors, but burned down in the 1950s and was replaced by a new facility in Bromborough, Cheshire.

Italian manufacturer Candy bought the operation in 1979 together with the use of the Kelvinator brand name in the UK and produced both Candy and Kelvinator products until it closed around 2000.

Merger with Nash Motors[edit]

On October 27, 1936, it was announced that Nash Motors and Kelvinator Corp. were merging.[11] The merger took effect on January 4, 1937, to form Nash-Kelvinator Corporation as part of a deal that placed George W. Mason at the helm of the combined company.

In 1952, it acquired the Altorfer Bros. Company, which made home laundry equipment under the ABC brand name.

World War II[edit]

Between 1939 and 1945, the complete manufacturing facilities of the factories' group was turned over to the manufacturing of military supplies.[citation needed]

In Britain, Kelvinator of London contributed to the field of testing airplane components at ultra-low temperatures, and instruments under high altitude conditions, research that was credited as saving the lives of many Allied aircrews.

The company pledged to introduce the scientific discoveries gained during the war production into its appliances to make them more useful and efficient.[12]

Integration into American Motors[edit]

Nash-Kelvinator became a division of American Motors (AMC) when Nash merged with Hudson in 1954. Kelvinator introduced the first auto-defrost models.[13][14] Kelvinator refrigerators included shelves on the inside of their doors and special compartments for frozen juice containers in the freezer.[13] It also pioneered the side-by-side refrigerator freezer in the early 1950s.[13][15] In the 1960s, Kelvinator refrigerators introduced "picture frame" doors on some models allowing owners to decorate their appliance to match décor of their kitchens.

Under the leadership of Roy D. Chapin Jr., AMC sold off its Kelvinator operations in 1968.[16] (AMC then purchased the Jeep brand from Kaiser Industries in 1970.) Kelvinator joined White Consolidated Industries, a company that had also acquired the rights to Frigidaire (formerly owned by General Motors), Gibson, and White-Westinghouse product lines. Electrolux of Sweden acquired White Consolidated Industries in 1986, and combined WCI brands with Electrolux-owned Tappan to become WCI Major Appliances Group.

In the early 1990s, the name of the Dublin, Ohio based holding company changed to Frigidaire Company.

In 1997, it was reorganized into Electrolux North America Products.


In 2005, Carrier sold the Kelvinator division to National Refrigeration of Honea Path, South Carolina. The company manufactured Kelvinator bunkers, dipping cabinets, blast chillers, reach-ins, and low- and medium-temperature merchandisers.

The Kelvinator brand is used in Argentina for a wide variety of appliances marketed by Radio Victoria Fueguina in Tierra del Fuego.[17] The factory is in this province.[18]

Likewise, the Kelvinator brand of refrigerators has continuously been marketed in the Philippines since the 1960s by Concepcion Industries, a local maker of air conditioning equipment and refrigerators, including other notable brands: Carrier and Condura.[19]

The Electrolux company built and marketed Kelvinator Commercial refrigeration products that included "stainless steel door refrigerators and upright freezers, high performance chest freezers, and glass top ice cream display freezers" designed to NSF and American National Standards Institute standards for food service applications.[20]


  1. ^ "History". Electrolux International Company. 2007. Archived from the original on 27 December 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b Hubbert, Christopher J. (2006). "The Kelvin Home: Cleveland Heights Leads the Way to: 'a New and Better Way of Living'". Cleveland Heights Historical Society. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  3. ^ "History of the Refrigerator". 2006. Archived from the original on 26 March 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b Beld, Gordon (2012). Grand times in Grand Rapids : pieces of Furniture City history. History Press. pp. 70–71. ISBN 9781609496296. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  5. ^ "Ice Machine Merger Is Said to Impend; Kelvinator and Nizer Concerns Named in $20,000,000 Electrical Refrigerator Deal". The New York Times. 3 July 1925. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  6. ^ "A Typical Kelvin Home". Chicago Tribune. December 27, 1936. Retrieved June 6, 2020 – via
  7. ^ "If You Plan To Build". Elmira Star-Gazette. Advertisement. February 4, 1937. Retrieved June 6, 2020 – via
  8. ^ "More Than 10,000 See Kelvin Home". Detroit Free Press. November 1, 1936. Retrieved June 6, 2020 – via
  9. ^ R. O. Christensen (December 2009), National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Rosedale Gardens Historic District, retrieved June 6, 2020
  10. ^ "New Kelvin Home Open to Public for Four Hours Today". Albuquerque Journal. February 20, 1938. Retrieved June 5, 2020 – via
  11. ^ "Nash-Kelvinator". Cars & Parts. Amos Press. 27. 1984. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  12. ^ "We'll be Inside ... Looking Out (advertisement)". Life. 18 (8): 39. 19 February 1945. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  13. ^ a b c Seideman, Tony; Seideman, Celine (March–April 2007). "Cold Comparisons". Old-House Journal. 35 (2): 46. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Move the magic of the "Magic Cycle" defrosting (advertisement)". Life. 35 (7): inside cover. 17 August 1953. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Fabulous Foodarama by Kelvinator (advertisement)". Life. 40 (16): 68. 16 April 1956. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  16. ^ Hyde, Charles K. (2003). Riding the Roller Coaster. Wayne State University Press. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-8143-3091-3. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  17. ^ "Historia" (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Acerca de Kelvinator" (in Spanish). Radio Victoria Fueguina. Archived from the original on 23 January 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  19. ^ Morales, Neil Jerome C. (16 March 2012). "Concepcion Industries eyes listing in 2 years". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  20. ^ "Kelvinator Commercial Products". 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2013.