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 1950s Blue Metal Drink Pepsi-cola Embossed Cooler Chest W/ Sandwich TrayVintage Coca-cola Airline Cooler With Bottle OpenerVintage Coca-cola Black & White Porcelain Script Sign For Ice Cooler ChestsColeman Cooler Vintage Snow Lite/snowlite-1960's-rare-w/ Org Box & Tray-nice!!!!Vintage 1950s Metal Coca Cola Cooler Opener Portable Insulated NiceVintage Coke Coca Cola Cooler With TrayVintage Coke Coca Cola Pop Cooler Metal Chest Original Inside Box CaseLarge Chevrolet Super Service Sales Metal Sign Gas Can Door Push Chevy Ford GmcVintage 7up Pop Cooler Progress Metal Chest Original Inside Box SignBeep Beep Road Runner Warner Bros Films Sign Metal Plymouth Horn Vintage Look Large Metal Drive In Exit Sign Hot Rat Street Rod 32 Ford Roadster Chevy HarleySunoco Arrow Sign Gas Oil Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Blue Vintage Coca-cola CoolerVtg 50s Cavalier Coke Cooler Ice Chest Box W/ Raised Letters Tray Bottle OpenerLarge Bowling Alley Metal Sign Bowling Ball Lanes Bag Bowl Garage Home Man CaveRat Fink Tool Warning Sign I Get Crazy Chev Ford Toyota Body Shop Snap On MatcoVintage 1965 Metal Coleman Snow Lite Cooler Diamond LogoTexaco Motor Oil Can Display Rack Garage Auto Shop Gas Station Pump Sohio SunocoVintage 60's Coleman Snow-lite Diamond Steel/ Metal Cooler Turquoise Blue/greenVintage Coleman Beige Metal Cooler With Diamond EmblemExit Way Out Large Metal Sign Cinema Drive-in Cafe Garage Auto Theater Room SignVintage C.1950 Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle Picnic Cooler 19" Embossed Metal SignRapala Lure Sign Johnson Sea Horse Sign Boat Dealer, Evinrude Outboard MotorLost In The 50's Diner Sign Drive-in Booth Speaker Table Jukebox Retro Sign Vintage Coleman Colossal Steel Belted Cooler! Excellent! Antique Coca Cola Picnic Cooler " Drink Coca Cola In Bottles " Acton Mfg Co N/rRockabilly Kustom Kulture Hot Rat Rod Tattoo Flash Vintage Metal Coleman CoolerMetal Gulf Thermometer Gasoline Gas Oil Can Auto Shop Sign Motor Mopar Harley Vintage Coleman Lowboy Steel Belted Cooler! Butternut!Vintage Bundaberg Rum G'day Stubby Cooler Rear Bottle Opener + Coolite Insert VgVintage Coleman Steel Belted Cooler!Chevrolet Super Service Double Sided Flange Sign Chevelle Gmc Chevy Nova FordRat Fink Caution Sign Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Tools MancaveBig Boy Burgers Sign Embossed Metal Vintage Look Garage Gas Oil Rat Rod Cafe Sunoco Metal Sign, Gas Station, Gas Pump, Garage, Man Cave, Shop, Exxon, MobilRat Fink Caution Sign Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Tools Ford ChevyWwii Bomber Plane W/ Shark Teeth Nose Art Metal Indian Sign World War 2 Fighter Old Biker Blvd Street Sign Rat Fink Metal Vintage Look Hippie Indian Harley Vtg Raised Letter Drink Coca-cola Coke Cavalier Ice Chest Cooler Box Has Opener 1940's 7-up Cooler Antique Vintage With Place For Ice Rare19thc Antique Primitive Hand Tooled Water Cooler Type Slip Glaze Old Whiskey JugVintage Sign Big 3 D Ford Genuine Parts Metal Sign Mustang Truck Shelby Tough 1The Twilight Zone Sign Tv Series Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Antique Metal Coke "drink Coca-cola In Bottles" Original Cooler Pop Ice ChestVintage Coleman Cooler Small 7 Gallon Metal Cooler Original BoxVintage Large Aluminum 2 Handled Coca Cola Coke Cooler By Progress Refrig. Ky.Distressed Look Old Style Stp Oil Treatment Wall Shelf Metal Half Can DisplayVintage Pepsi Cola CoolerVintage Mid Century 50's Aluminum Cronstroms Pik-nik Picnic Cooler Ice Chest Genuine Ford V8 Parts Service Metal Logo Concave Sign Auto Shop Sign Motorcool Vintage Camping Coleman 5502b700 2-gallon "snow-lite Jug" Water Cooler Jug & BoxVintage Coleman Jug/cooler-snow Lite-1 Gal-#5501b700-green/white-w/ Org Box&cup Ac Delco Parts Service Metal Sign Embossed Vintage Look Spark Plugs Chevy TexacoGone Fishin Metal Sign Fishing Rapala Ford Mancave Chevy Remington Hunt Bass Vintage Westinghouse Wd-10 Coca Cola Chest Cooler Vtg Cavalier Coca Cola Metal Chest Cooler Complete And Original Beautiful 1950sVintage Paul Flum Nostagic Coca-cola Cooler LlRemington Thermometer Metal Shotgun Shell Store Display Sign Ammo Hunting GunVtg Green White Coleman Snow-lite 2 Gallon Water Cooler Spigot Thermos Jug W/boxRat Fink Caution Metal Sign Rat Rod Garage Auto Shop Tools Gas Pump Ford Chevy