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]

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    

Large Vintage 1950's Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle Metal Picnic Cooler SignVintage 1950 Pepsi Cooler Old Blue Bakelite Tube Radio-works!Vintage Dr Pepper Progress A2 Cooler!! Coca Cola 7up Rare!! No Reserve!!Vintage 1960s Orange Crush Cooler Quality Cronstroms Service Ice Chest NmintyVintage Blue Pepsi-cola Cooler-with Bottle Opener-steelVintage 1950's Vintage Pepsi Cola The Light Refreshment Aluminum CoolerVintage Royal Crown Progress A4 Cooler!! Coca Cola 7up Rare!! No Reserve!!!Sunny Citrus Cooler- Vintage Reproduction Barbie Doll Dress Clothes FashionsVintage Pepsi Cola A1 Double Dot Cooler!! Coca Cola 7up Rare!! No Reserve!!!Vintage Pepsi A4 Light Blue Cooler!! Coca Cola 7up Rare!! No Reserve!!Vintage Pepsi A2 Cooler!! Coca Cola 7up Rare!! No Reserve!!!Vintage Royal Crown A2 Progress Cooler!! Coca Cola 7up Rare!! No Reserve!!Vintage Pepsi Cola CoolerLarge Vintage Persian Silver Wine Cooler Cellaret Planter Embossed Roses Vintage Metal Coca~cola Cooler W/lock Down LidVintage Coke Cooler By CavalierVintage Cronstroms Pik-nik Aluminum Cooler Ice Chest W/trayVintage 1960's Coca-cola Aluminum Ice Chest Cooler Mid Century Advertising Vintage Coca Cola Coke Big Can-do Metal Cooler Unused With Original BoxVintage1950's Drink Coca-cola In Bottles Picnic Cooler Ice Chest Embossed Sweet!Vintage/antique Wine Champagne Cooler Silver Plate Atkin & Bro SheffieldVintage Pedigree Sindy Doll Surf Board & Box Cooler House Home Scene Setter7 Vintage Libbey "cavalcade" Prancing Horses Frosted 7" Cooler/glasses Antique Hole In One Coca Cola Cooler 1950'sVintage Therm-a-jug Knapp Monarch K&m 1 Gallon Insulated Thermos Cooler Hot ColdLarge Vintage Red Gott 50 Cooler - Ice Chest Excellent Condition W/ All PartsVintage Coleman Snow-lite 3 Gallon Water Jug Cooler W/box (model 5503 B 700)Vintage Army / Military Galvanized Water Cooler / Drink Dispenser W/ Cup BracketVintage Thermaster All Metal Portable Deluxe Refrigerator Insulated CoolerVintage Cronco Aluminum Wrapped Swordfish CoolerVintage Steel Green Coleman Ice Chest Penguin Galvanized & Red Water Jug W/ CupsVintage Red Metal Coleman 1973 Water Drink Cooler Jug Dispenser 2 Gallon Vintage 1950s Little Brown Jug Water Cooler Porcelain Lined Hemp & Company UsaVintage Brown Coleman 1 Gal Drink Water Picnic Jug Cooler Dispenser 6-79Vintage Coca-cola Summer Fun Accessories Cooler*bottles*cans*towels*bag**wow!!Ic Cooler - Vintage Soft Drink Can / Beer Can 1980s Wa Bond Corporation - Swan