In the 1950s, the American dream expanded to include not just a house and automobile, but coolers and ice chests, too. Insulated coolers displaying the brand names and logos of beverages became a must-have accessory for backyard barbecues and camping trips, keeping their contents cold on hot summer days.

Coca-Cola originally hired a sheet-metal manufacturing firm called Glascock Bros. to create a specialized Coke cooler that could be sold to individual retailers in 1928. The following year, Glascock started making its rectangular shop cooler, with an iced box above for full sodas and an angled rack for empties below. Coca-Cola sold 32,000 of them at $12.50 each during their first production year.

After 1930, electric coolers became common in convenience stores, but portable ice-chests thrived among consumers who wanted to transport cold drinks. Whether they were spending a day at the beach or hiking in the mountains, these lighter coolers kept folks refreshed while on the go.

From soda-pop brands like Royal Crown and Dr. Pepper to beer labels like Budweiser, Schlitz, and Coors, beverage companies found the picnic cooler a perfect way to reinforce their marketing efforts. Soft-drink makers often used bright colors to distinguish their coolers, with red for Coke, blue for Pepsi, yellow for Squirt, and green for 7-Up.

Meanwhile, outdoor-gear manufacturers like Coleman, Skylander, Thermos, and KampKold designed coolers explicitly for families headed out into nature. Most of these were built with a clamp-secured lid, a large carrying handle, and a small drainage spout on one end. Others were made in a tall cylinder shape, by brands like Little Brown Chest, Revelation Cooler, Western Field, Thermaster, and Pleasure Chest.

In addition to Glascock Bros., companies like Hemp & Co., Westinghouse, and Progress Refrigerator made smaller Coca-Cola coolers in a variety of styles. Progress was one of the largest mid-century cooler producers, whose designs were made from steel with a galvanized liner to prevent rusting. Some even included a sandwich tray in the interior compartment to keep chilled food from getting wet.

The company’s standard A1 model was made throughout the 1950s, with reinforced chrome corners and a handle mounted on the lid for easy removal. The A1 fit neatly on top of a unit...

Progress advertised its portable coolers straight to drink manufacturers, with ads highlighting trends in outdoor recreation and car-based travel. “Cars on the highway have hit an all-time high! Hunting and fishing license sales have broken all records! Outdoor living…bar-b-q’s…picnics…are at the peak of popularity! These trends have created a vast, new market for soft drinks!”

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1940s Drink Coca Cola Cooler Old Bakelite Soda Machine Type Tube RadioThermador Car Cooler Vintage Auto Air Conditioner Accessory 1950'sVintage 1950's Pepsi Cola Aluminum Picnic Cooler - No ReserveRare! Nice! Vintage 7 Up White Cooler Has Opener & DrainVintage 1950 Pepsi Cooler Old Blue Bakelite Soda Coin Op Cola Machine Tube RadioVintage 50's? Rc Royal Crown Cola Cooler **w/ Opener Eye Catching!Vintage Sign Big 3 D Ford Genuine Parts Metal Sign Mustang Truck Shelby Tough 1Coca Cola Metal Cooler Vintage No ReserveClassic Vintage Bullet Evaporative CoolerA&w Rootbeer Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil Coke PopVintage 1960's Coleman Snow-lite Diamond Steel/metal Cooler TurquoiseRat Fink Warning Tools Sign Embossed Tin Metal Vintage Look Ratrod Gas OilVintage Coleman Cooler Diamond Emblem Snow-lite Aqua Green Vintage 1960s RetroVintage 50's Aluminum Coke Cooler With Original BoxVintage Progress Coke Coca-cola Advertising Metal Ice Chest CoolerColeman - Metal Water Cooler - Vtg Dark Green & White 2 Gallon JugBeep Beep Road Runner Warner Bros Films Sign Metal Plymouth Horn Vintage Look Smokey Pig Bar'b-q Sign Embossed Metal Vintage Look Garage Gas Oil Rat Rod Cafe Rules For Dating Metal Embossed Vintage Look Garage Gas Oil Ford Chevy Dad'sVintage Double Dot = Pepsi Cola Cooler / 1940's Complete / OriginalCoca Cola Vintage CoolerVintage 1972 Coleman 22"x14"x16" Red Metal Snow-lite Beer/soda Cooler/ice ChestCoca Cola Thermometer Vintage Look Heavy Gauge Metal For Shop Garage Barn HomeGoodyear Tire Service Station Sign Auto Shop Sign Motor Oil Can Rack Esso 3 DVintage Antique Coleman Cooler With Matching Water Jug Warning Bigfoot Area Sign Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Rat FinkCool Vintage Baccarat Art Glass Blue Whale Figurine Hand Cooler PaperweightLisa Frank Lunch Bag Cooler Case Vintage Cats Kittens Butterflies Flowers Pink Genuine Ford V8 Parts Service Metal Logo Concave Sign Auto Shop Sign Motorcool Icee Frozenated Fun Flavors Sign Cold Drinks Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look The Twilight Zone Sign Tv Series Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Vintage 7up Soda Metal Cooler- Progress Refrigerator Co. All Original Condition!Vintage 1964 Diamond Logo Blue Metal Coleman Cooler Ice Chest NiceColeman Oscar Cooler 16 Quart Excellent Vintage Vintage Look Cool Stp Oil Classic Sign Man Cave Garage Game Room Shop The Twilight Zone Sign Tv Series Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Vintage Squirt CoolerDrink Coca Cola Bottle Opener Cast Iron Class Coke Soda Restaurant Vintage StyleVintage Pepsi-cola (pepsi) Aluminum Cooler / Ice Box - Baby Blue Coca-cola Cooler Antique CoolerAntique Coca Cola Cooler (1937 Westinghouse Standard) (restored) Coke Pepsi 7upVintage 1962 Coleman Diamond Metal Cooler W/insert Tray And Opener HandlesCorvette Sting Ray Vintage Rare Official Gm Chevrolet 3d Emblem Metal Sign Oem Stp Metal Sign Racing Oil Pennzoil Fuel Pump Garage Camaro Parts Man Cave Ford Lisa Frank Lunch Bag Cooler Case Vintage Yellow Cats Kittens Flowers Purple BlueVintage Harley Davidson Insulated Super Cool Cooler 12 Tote BagDots Candy Gumdrops Sign Tootsie Mason Metal Vintage Look Garage Tools Rat RodVintage Cooler Garwood Chriscraft Woody Nautical Beach Cronstroms Cronco Texaco Sky Chief Gasoline Metal Sign Auto Shop Standard Motor Oil Can Rack Vintage Coca Cola Coke Metal Cooler Progress Refrigerator Co. With Tray 1950s.Vintage Thermos Cooler, Woodgrain, Really NiceVintage Mullins "red Cap" Poloron Picnic Jug Cooler Black Americana Art DecoSlow Children At Play The Three Stooges Metal Vintage Look Garage No Hunting Unless Its For Wabbit Metal Sign Vintage Look Ratrod Remington ColtPennzoil Gas Oil Truck Metal Sign Auto Shop Sign Motor Oil Can Rack Esso GulfVintage Dr Pepper Cooler Sandwich TrayVintage Coca Cola Cooler With Tray And OpenerChevrolet Super Service Double Sided Flange Sign Chevelle Gmc Chevy Nova FordNib Classic Coca Cola Toothpick Dispenser In Vintage Old-time Cooler LookStp Metal Sign Racing Oil Pennzoil Fuel Pump Garage Camaro Parts Man Cave Ford