Coolerator (was Re: Query: "$64,000 quesiton")

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 11 03:11:39 UTC 2007

This is the best, brief description of the company that I've been able
to find, courtesy of the North-East Minnesota Historical Society:

"The Coolerator Company began in 1908 as the Duluth Showcase Company.
The name changed to Duluth Refrigerator Company in 1932. It was a
subsidiary of the Marshall Wells Building Corporation. In 1940, the
plant was converted to war work. In 1945, the Coolerator Company again
began to manufacture refrigerators and freezers. In 1948, the Gibson
Refrigerator Company purchased the Coolerator Company. By 1950, the
Coolerator Company was involved in the production of electric ranges
and air conditioners in addition to freezers and refrigerators. In
1951, International Telephone and Telegraph (IT&T) purchased the
Coolerator Company. In 1954, the McGraw Electric Company purchased
Coolerator's machinery and equipment with an option to buy the land.
The Coolerator Company ceased operation in June 1954 when the
Company's remaining property was sold at auction."

"Coolerator" is also the only brand name of an icebox that I can
recall ever having come across. While searching, I've even found
instances of people who use "coolerator" as an ordinary, generic term,
like "formica." Perhaps, back in the day, Coolerator was the Cadillac
of iceboxes and had a lock on the business.

How soon they forget! Or is that, "How quickly ..."? Seriously. Which is it?


While I was searching around, I was surprised to see that not only are
people under the impression that Chuck Berry invented the word, but
also there are numerous of ;-) people under the impression that they
themselves are the inventors.

On 5/9/07, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Coolerator (was Re: Query: "$64,000 quesiton")
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On 5/9/07, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:
> >
> > When I was a child down in Texas, we had a General Electric-brand
> > fridgidaire, said fridgidaire being occasionally referred to as an
> > "icebox." When we first moved to Saint Louis, city life being somewhat
> > more expensive than small-town life, we were, at first, able to afford
> > only a "Coolerator"-brand icebox. (In those days, diversification was
> > such that Coolerator also manufactured its own Coolerator-brand
> > fridgidaire.)
> Were Coolerators particularly popular in St. Louis? My only previous
> knowledge of the brand name comes from the great St. Louis poet Chuck
> Berry:
> "They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale
> The Coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale."
> ("You Never Can Tell," 1964)
> Coolerators (not to mention Roebuck sales) are now long forgotten, to
> the point that many people seem to think Berry coined the word
> "coolerator" for the purposes of the song. See, e.g.:
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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