• refrigeration_covers

    Before AC, Refrigeration Was King

    Dec. 28, 2023
    Contracting Business magazine's origins go back to the mid-1940s, when refrigeration was essential for supporting the US armed forces and supermarkets across the land.


    Beginning with this January issue, Contracting Business begins its year-long celebration of an 80-year legacy as a leading publication serving the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industries. 

    Many dedicated and knowledgeable individuals have gone before those whose names now appear on the masthead, starting with the editors who rolled those first blank pages into their typewriters and a sales team that called on the leading manufacturers of the day. And we also must recognize those manufacturers, inventors and others who took the concepts of refrigeration and brought them to the supermarkets and warehouses of the day, key players in a growing commercial refrigeration industry.

    This first article sets the stage for what you'll see in the coming months. Not only will we recall those earliest days as a leading refrigeration publication, but we'll also chronicle what came later, as commercial and residential air conditioning and gas heating became common across the land. 


    This first precursor to Contracting Business was The Refrigeration Industry," devoted to commercial refrigeration applications. It was first published out of Cleveland, Ohio, and owned by Refrigeration Publications, Inc. Penton would purchase it later on down the road. The staff consisted of: 

    Editor: T.T. Quinn
    Art Director: James B. Henderson and Arthur Bouhall. 
    President: Irving B. Hexter.
    Vice president: Lester P. Aurbach.


    Just as we see has become essential in heating and cooling, service was an essential part of refrigeration, for both servicing contractors and their customers. This article on the service business of Koolaire Refrigeration, St. Paul, Minn. isn't very fancy, but it shows what types of systems were often in need of maintenance in the 1940s. Shown in the photo at left, workmen inspect a beverage cooler. An ice cream cabinet is being tested after repair.

    "We are already well-esbablished as a servicing business," said Koolaire manager E.H. Colestock. "From this basis and on the reputation we've made in it, we're going to build our postware merchandising business. Our lines are out and already we've made some contacts that will bring some top-rank lines into our selling setup." 

    Businesses everywhere had to alter their strategies due to World War II. This company had to take on machine shop operations and welding as providers were conentrating on wartime service for military needs. Koolaire's postwar plans were to include sales and installations of home air conditioning systems, "which Mr. Colestock believes will eventually be a big field for the firm. He believes air conditioning will be included with home heating as a part of many builders' contracts." 

    Ansul Chemical Company, Marinette, Wisc., was a leading refrigerant producer and agent for Freon 11, Freon-12 and Freon-22. It brought a patriotic spirit to bear on a series of ads that championed America's success against the Empire of Japan and "Yankee Ingenuity" related to using refrigerants like liquid sulfur dioxide and Ansul Liquid Methyl Chloride. 




    In 1945, Copeland hadalready been a leading compressor manufacturer for 25 years, and the need for dependable compressor technology continued to expand. This was an ad for the Coplametic electric compressor. Located in Sydney Ohio as it still is today. 




    The refrigeration technician was held in high regard: "On call the refrigeration service engineer performs his task, oftimes while the city sleeps. Thousands of dollars he has saved retailers, countless thousands of pounds of precious food he has prevented from spoiling," read this ad for Automatic Products Company's A-P DEPENDABLE Refrigeration Controls. 



    • Commercial air conditioning arrives and service opportunities with it.
    • We begin intense coverage of residential installations and service.
    • Consumer brand loyalty becomes a major factor in the equipment wars.
    • A look at The ARI show, precursor to AHR Expo.
    • Our name is changed to Air Conditioing & Refrigeration Business
    • The columnists: Doc Rusk, Jon Pierce, Ron Smith, Matt Michel, Earl King and more.
    • Design/Build a standard
    • Contractors of the Year featured companies to be featured each month
    • Quality Home Comfort Awards
    • The Comfortech Show