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    

Rare Near Mint ~ 1930s Era Vintage Royal Crown Cola Old Metal Airline CoolerOriginal Vintage Embossed Drink Coca-cola Metal Cooler W/ Tray & Side OpenerNear Mint 1950s--early 60s Era Vintage Royal Crown Cola Old Metal Picnic CoolerVintage 7up Seven Up Soda Porcelain Advertising Sign Chest Cooler Machine SignHarley Davidson Beer Cooler VintageGreat Shape ~ 1950s Era Vintage Royal Crown Cola Old Metal Picnic CoolerVery Nice 1940s Vintage Royal Crown Best By Taste Test Old Metal Picnic CoolerVintage Original Acton 1950's Coca Cola Cooler In Original Manufacturer's BoxOriginal Vintage Embossed Coca-cola Action Metal Cooler, Side Opener & TrayOriginal Vtg Coca Cola Action Metal Cooler Side Bottle Opener Advertising Soda1950s Vintage Pepsi Cooler Blue Metal With White LetteringVintage Original Coca Cola Cooler With Tray Insert & Built-in Bottle OpenerVtg Rolling Rock Cooler 27" Thermometer Metal Sign Latrobe Brewing AdvertisingVintage 1950s Pepsi Cola Beverage Cooler Aluminum Great Advertising PieceVintage Coleman Metal Red Cooler 22.5 X 13.5 X 12.5 Inch Locking Ice ChestVintage Coleman Brown Metal Cooler Iced ChestVintage Galvanized Steel Tray Insert For Coca Cola 1940's - 1950's Picnic CoolerDragon Ball Z Movie Cooler 10 Inch Loose Collector Figure Rare Vintage AnimeVintage Metal Falstaff Cooler! Red From 1940's! Rare Beer Advertising BrewerianVintage Progress Refrigeration 7-up Soda Bottle Beer Ice Metal Cooler W/ OpenerVintage Coca-cola Cooler Original & Good ConditionVintage Nesbitt's Orange Soda Cooler Metal Pop With TrayVintage Only 1 On Ebay Metal Chest Cooler Hamilton Skotch Gold Flyte Aluminum Vintage Coca-cola Opener Starr X, Never Used, Wall Cooler Mount TypeVintage Red Coca Cola Picnic Cooler-rare Rectangle Shape With 2 HandlesVintage Mini Coca Cola Plastic Cooler Recipe Box Premium ItemVintage 1960's Green Coleman Rare Metal Handle 1 Gallon Water Cooler JugVintage Thermos Westernfield Green Metal Picnic Cooler JugVintage 7 Up CoolerMen's Life Is Good Crusher Ls Vintage Cooler Nwt XlVintage Old Red Metal Cooler Chest With Tray Heavy Rust Parts/repairRed Vintage CoolerVintage Thermaster Red Metal Cooler By Poloron 20.5"x12"h X10"deepFap Truck Vintage Cooler Badge,emblem Logo Nameplate Grill,sign Insignia CamionIgloo Tag Along Vintage CoolerVintage Thermador Coronado Window Mount Air CoolerVintage Heavy Duty Igloo 3 Gallon Industrial Galvanized Steel Water CoolerCoca - Cola Cooler Vintage Original 1970s Vinyl Coca - Cola Cooler 6 Pack CokeVintage Green Coleman Snow-lite 1 Gallon Water Jug Cooler