The Gadgets Page

January 19, 2009

1948 GE Revolving Shelf Refrigerator

Filed under: Kitchen Gadgets,Retro Gadgets — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

In 1948, General Electric came out with this refrigerator/freezer with revolving shelves. You can see the full advertisement here:

Click to embiggen

1948 GE Revolving Shelf RefrigeratorI am continually surprised at products that DON’T survive. This fridge seems like the PERFECT solution to that bowl of moldy leftovers that got shoved into the back. Why don’t all of our refrigerators have revolving shelves?! The revolving shelf seems like the killer app for the refrigerator world. Why didn’t this feature survive?

Also notice that not one of those bowls of food have plastic wrap or lids on them. Is that just for aesthetics or did no one cover their food in the fridge back in the Forties? Nice to know that potato salad with boiled eggs looked EXACTLY the same as it does now.

1948 GE Revolving Shelf RefrigeratorAnother difference between this fridge and the current ones is the size of the freezer. It’s TINY! The frozen TV dinner was invented in 1945, but it didn’t really catch on and become a fad until the mid-Fifties, so maybe they didn’t need big freezers back then. Or maybe everyone had a separate huge freezer appliance and this one was just for more immediate frozen food needs.

In the end, this refrigerator would fail miserably in present day with no can dispensers for sodas and a freezer that can’t hold even one frozen pizza. Still, I’d love to see a present day refrigerator include revolving shelves. It’s a feature that should have thrived.

Via: Found in Mom’s Basement: 1948 ad for General Electric refrigerators


  1. I think this is a GREAT idea!!! I wonder why it failed! I JUST cleaned out our fridge and if the shelves could revolve…it might not have gotten so messy in the first place! The things shoved to the back seem to get forgotten about! Thanks for this post!

    Comment by stacy — January 25, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  2. I was JUST sitting around the living room with my family at Christmas time talking about a new fridge that mom was shopping for. Some $2200 deal from Sears. A refrigerator that has no freezer.. just ALL fridge. Well, while we were discussing it, I (I’m a 26 year old male) blurted out.. “You know what they need to make Ma.. They need to do something the same as your lazy susan revolving cupboard; They need to do that with a full-sized fridge!”. Ma said “Well you had better get out there and invent it”. And me, being the cynic that I am, replied “It’s probably already been done”. And a “Google-magic” here and a “Google-magic” there, and boom; I’m at this page. WHAT A NOVEL IDEA!! BRING IT BACK! I would like to have some of the royalties of the re-invented fridge. Thought I was actually on to another original idea. Turns out though… I am just left in the cold 😉

    Comment by Rogan Hennie — December 26, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  3. I was searching the famous Craigslist for a used frig for my shop. Opening up a add I noticed the word vintage. I called the guy and he sent me pics of the unit. Low and behold it had revolving shelves! I wanted it immediately! I met him the following day and brought it home! What a cool frig! And it freezes just fine after all these years too! Great find! 50’s technology and innovation at it’s best. Bring it to the 21st century!

    Comment by Rex — June 21, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  4. I just brought home a ’54 GE with revolving shelves. Yellow porcelain interior in the fridge area, blue interior in the freezer area. Complete with two vegetable drawers at the bottom and a meat compartment that is shaped like a pie wedge to fit perfectly on one of the revolving shelves. These are all in the same blue matching the freezer compartment. Even the orginal seals on the doors match the compartments- blue on top, yellow on bottom. What attention to design detail!

    It is so true that “they made ’em better in the old days”. This fridge will probably outlast me, and I’m 47. But that’s the way it was. Manufacturers don’t want things to last anymore, even though they have the technology and materials to do so. Oh well. 🙂

    So now I have my fifth “senior citizen” large appliance in in my home – My others are a ’53 GE fridge (right before the invention of the revolving shelves – Sorry, not invented until 1954, not 1948); a ’55 Leonard upright freezer; a 1950 Chambers range, and a 1948 O’Keefe & Merritt range.

    All of these 50 plus year-old workhorses look brand new, and work like new. I seek out the survivors in excelnet condition. Craigslist is the best source!

    I am looking forward to my newly acquired ’54 GE fridge with revolving shelves. I can revolve the shelf to get access to anything on the shelf by simply swinging it left or right. OR, if I need to move the shelf up or down, I simply push the button in the center of the shelf, and rotate it clockwise to lower it, counter-clockwise to raise it. Just looking at that multi-function mechanism under the revolving shelf that those fine engineers at GE made makes me proud to be an American!

    Comment by Dan D — August 5, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  5. I grew up with this refrigerator, and even as a child thought it was great. I loved pushing the button that allowed the shelves to be spun around to adjust their height. We brought this wonder home from our family owned small town hardware store and filled it with the cuisine of the day; hot dogs, jello, velvetta, chipped beef and whole milk from the local dairy.

    Comment by Janet Knock — August 31, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

  6. I just refinished one I picked up. Very cool. Wondering how to figure out what year? I would like to replace the seal. After all these years it’s intact, but has mildewed and stained.

    Comment by Eric Bullard — January 10, 2011 @ 8:43 am

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