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 Original Nugrape Soda Cooler No Reserve!!Vintage Original Pepsi Cola Cooler No Reserve!!Vintage Metal Malleys Cooler Esky Rat Hot Rod Vw Kombi BeetleVintage Antique 1950's Coca Cola Cooler By Progress Refrigerator, Louisville KyVtg 1940's Metal Coca Cola Cooler W/ Tray & Bottle Opener - Action Mfg - No RustVintage Original Bowes Orange Mccowan Cooler No Reserve!!Vintage Rare 1975 Coleman Red Cooler Metal Ice Chest Tailgate Camp 22 1/2"Vintage 1950's Pleasure Chest Cooler Vintage Cooler Pleasure Chest ! Red & White Rules For Dating Metal Embossed Sign Vintage Look Garage Gas Oil Ford Chevy DadsVintage Coleman Brown Beige Metal Steel Camping Cooler Ice Chest Bottle Opener Spam Hormel Meat Sign Embossed Metal Vintage Look Soda 3d Diner Grocery Store Embossed Pepsi Cola Button Cap Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil CokeVintage Coca Cola CoolerPontiac Sign Arrow Metal Vintage Look Garage Tools Gto Lemans Tempest Judge StpCocal Cola Vintage CoolerVintage Coleman Cooler Green Metal With Steel Handles 1970'sVintage Dr. Pepper Metal Ice Cooler W/ Bottle OpenerEmbossed Pepsi Cola Button Cap Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil CokeEmbossed Pepsi Cola Oval Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil Coke1954 Coca Cola Cooler Antique Vintage Aluminum Drink Coke Bottles 50s RareRare Coca Cola Cooler Bread Box Vintage 1995 Original Exc. ConditionRoute 66 Historic Vintage Old Look Street Sign Metal Sign Auto Shop Sign Motor Vtg Mn Golden Gophers Coleman Cooler Memorabilia Maroon Baseball Hockey FootbalRoute 66 Historic Vintage Old Look Street Sign Metal Sign Auto Shop Sign Motor Old Antique Coke CoolerVintage 1973 Coleman Snow Lite Metal Red Camping Cooler With AccessoriesEmbossed Pepsi Cola Flange Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil CokeEmbossed Pepsi Cola Flange Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil CokeVintage Mid-century Cronstroms Pik-nik Metal Cooler Ice Chest Minneapolis, MnVintage Antique Coca Cola Ice Chest Cooler With Legs 36" Height Local Pick Up !!Vintage Coleman Beverage Cooler Jug - Green, 2 Gallon In Box Never Used Yr 4/75Coca Cola Metal Thermometer Bottle Cap Can Coke Cooler Vintage Style Sign MobilVintage Soda Cooler 1950 SnackmasterVintage Galvanized Steel Igloo 5 Gal Water Beverage Drink Cooler Jug DispenserEmbossed Pepsi Cola Oval Sign Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil CokeVintage Igloo Lunchmate Playmate Cooler Black 1981 With Tray RareSet Of 6 Ned Smith Waterfowl 12-ounce Tall Cooler Drinking Glasses - VintageVintage Coleman Personal 8 Qt Lunch Cooler Ice Chest #5272 Red Lid - Nice!Coca Cola Kid Metal Thermometer Soda Jerk Coke Cooler Vintage Style Sign MobilVintage Disney Mickey Mouse Drawstring String Backpack Tote Bag With CoolerMobile Oil Metal Thermometer Bottle Cap Can Coke Cooler Vintage Style Sign MobilVintage Thermador Car Cooler - Air Conditioner Swap Cooler *nice!Vintage 1950's Coke Cooler Vintage Coleman 16 Quart Oscar Cooler Blue White 5274 Tight Locking Lid Euc LqqkVintage Coleman Cooler 2 Gal.Coca Cola Metal Thermometer Bottle Cap Can Coke Cooler Vintage Drink Coca ColaPontiac Sign V8 Metal Vintage Look Garage Tools Gto Lemans Tempest Judge StpVintage Coca Cola Floor Cooler Beverage Air @ 1970Poloron Nsulated 50's Green Retro Tartan Toter Vintage Portable Cooler Ice Box Vintage Coleman Snow-lite Cooler Latch AssemblyRare Never Used!!! Vintage Igloo 1 Gallon Water/drink Cooler JugCoca Cola Cooler Handle Coke Post War Original Old Vintage Used WestinghouseVintage Barbie Doll Mattel Plastic Camping Picnic Green Cooler W/tree Imprint Pepsi Cola Round Sign Sold Here Soda Crush Cooler Machine Bottle Mobil CokeVintage 7up Cooler With TrayVintage Gott Delco Energizer Battery Cooler Black And WhiteVintage Brinsdon 12 Volt Travel Cooler/warmer Fishing Travel Camping 12vVintage Igloo 3 Gal. Metal Plastic Lined CoolerChevrolet Metal Thermometer Bottle Cap Can Coke Cooler Vintage Style Sign Mobil