From its humble beginnings at the end of the 19th century, Coca-Cola understood the power of branding. The company splashed its logo on anything that could be seen by potential customers in a retail setting, whether it was a tin or porcelain sign, a serving tray, or a decorative wall calendar.

The coolers that kept its beverages cold were no exception. Soda pop sold better when it was chilled, so it behooved retailers to keep their inventory of Coca-Cola bottles on ice. Prior to 1930 and the advent of electric coolers, that’s exactly what they did, mostly in round coolers made from wooden half barrels with wooden lids and the words “Drink Coca-Cola in Bottles” stenciled on the side. Other round, ice-cooled coolers, such as those manufactured by Icy-O, were made out of metal—customers simply lifted the tub’s lid and then paid the clerk for their frosty beverage.

By 1910, a Georgia bottler named George Cobb built the first coin-operated vending cooler for Coca-Cola. His Vend-all cooler held only 12 bottles, making it impractical for retailers, but the device was a proof of the concept. By the 1920s, numerous companies with names like Freez a Bottle, Icebergdip, and Walrus Cooler were producing Coca-Cola-branded coolers for retailers. Icy-O’s, which ranged from floor models to ones that were designed to sit on a counter, held from 72 to 120 bottles—some featured a compartment for empties, which were cleaned and refilled.

Throughout most of the 1920s, Coca-Cola sat on the sidelines as third-parties made coolers for its products, but in 1928 it hired a sheet-metal manufacturing firm called Glascock Bros. to design and build a cooler that it could sell to retailers. By 1929, the rectangular Glascock cooler, with an iced box above and angled racks for empties below, was ready. Coca-Cola sold 32,000 of them at $12.50 apiece in that introductory year.

Glascock Bros. produced numerous versions of the design. Some were described as “Standard,” others were galvanized for “All Weather” use, a “Portable” model featured three wheels (two large ones up front, plus a small one in the rear for steering), and its boxy “Enclosed Base” version hid the unsightly racks of empties from view.

Coca-Cola collectors look for these Glascock coolers, of course, but some also seek the salesmen samples of them, which were produced by the hundreds. Measuring not much more that a foot in height, these handsome miniatures were carefully painted and even featured tiny racks and even-smaller bottles that fit in them.

Electric coolers followed in 1930, but the first ones were too expensive for most retailers—Glascock’s initial electric cooler cost a whopping $150. But electric cooler were obvi...

As with the Glascock coolers, Westinghouse produced salesman samples of its machines—due to their diminutive size, these items are sometime more popular with collectors than the real thing, which require a lot of room to store and were subject to a fair amount of wear and tear. Some of the Vendo samples were produced out of die-cut folded paper.

Another cooler-related miniature is the Cooler Savings Bank, which cooler salesmen would give to their retailer customers to encourage them to save for a cooler of their own.

After the war, coolers, even the popular Cavalier models, slowly but steadily gave way to modern vending machines. But in one arena, the picnic, coolers still served a purpose. Most insulated Coca-Cola picnic coolers from the 1940s and ’50s are red, but some are clad in metal while others are wrapped in vinyl to make them more lightweight.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Coca-Cola Collectibles

Coca-Cola Collectibles

The Collectibles page of the official Coca-Cola website features photos and videos on bottles, signs, advertising, … [read review or visit site]

Bobbys Coca-Cola on the Web

Bobbys Coca-Cola on the Web

This site, a group effort, is a great reference for Coca-Cola collectors. Start with the timeline and product lists… [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]

Soda-Machines.com

Soda-Machines.com

The ultimate guide to vintage soda vending machines, from Coca-Cola to Pepsi to Royal Crown to Dr. Pepper. Start at… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique 1930's Coca-cola Westinghouse Junior Soda Pop CoolerVintage Coca-cola Airplane Cooler Embossed Fishtail Drink Ice Cold Coca Cola Arrow Sign Bottle Coke Soda Mobil Embossed Fishtail Drink Ice Cold Coca Cola Arrow Sign Bottle Coke Soda Mobil Vintage Coca-cola CoolerNice Old And Original Coca Cola Cooler Radio-1950'sEmbossed Polly Gasoline Sign Petroleum Parrot Motor Oil Gas Can Gasoline Texaco Vintage Collectable Coca Cola Ice ChestEarly Coca Cola Glascock Serial Plate For 1920s CoolerCoca Cola Cooler Super Beetle Metal Sign Vintage Look Garage Tools Gto Lemans Tempest JudgeWarning Bigfoot Area Sign Rat Rod Metal Vintage Look Garage Rat FinkStp Metal Sign Racing Oil Pennzoil Fuel Pump Garage Camaro Parts Man Cave Ford Rare Survivor, Victor Coca Cola Cooler Dry Counter Model Cl-35aVintage Coca Cola Cooler (1940 - 1950 Era)Vintage Coca-cola Cooler A.m. Radio 1940'sEmbossed Fishtail Drink Ice Cold Coca Cola Arrow Sign Bottle Coke Soda Mobil The Good Gulf Gasoline Sign Vintage Look Garage Tools Gto Lemans Tempest JudgeIce Cream Sign Embossed Metal Vintage Look Root Beer Float Orange Soda ButtonEmbossed Polly Gasoline Sign Petroleum Parrot Motor Oil Gas Can Gasoline Texaco Coca-cola Christmas Ornament Bear In Ice Chest With Coke Bottles 2012Vintage Antique 1950s Coca Cola Cooler Tray Solid Coke Ice Chest Box Action MfgVintage 1959 Chrysler Cadillac Fleetwood High Quality Art Glass Wood Frame Coke Coca Cola Cavalier Junior Airline Picnic Cooler 1948-1952 All Original 1960 Cavalier Coca-cola Cooler---22 Case--the Big One1950's Coca Cola Coke Ice Box Cooler Lid By Action Mfg. Co., Inc. As FoundStp High Gauge Metal Retro Sign. 3d Look Vintage Style Pennzoil Ford Gulf Refrigerator Fridge Cooler Coca Cola Made By General MotorsCoca Cola Bottle Musical #d Coin Slider Cooler Bank Coke Music Enesco 1997 Nib Coke Cooler LidsVintage Coca-cola Metal Cooler Ice Chest Red & White RoughNew Kurt Adler Drink Coca-cola Red Ice Cooler With Bottles Christmas Ornament Vintage Coke Cooler - Farm Fresh Perfect For A Restoration ProjectVintage Coca Cola Wooden Coin Bank - Looks Like 1940's Cooler Coke Was Sold FromKoolatron Coke Coca Cola Office Dorm Rv Mini Fridge Refrigerator Can Cooler NiceCoca-cola - Logo - Coke - Analog Watch - New - Red Cooler TinCoca Cola Ceramic Ice Chest BoxPontiac Gm General Motors Embossed Raised Letters Metal Sign Auto Shop Trans Am Route 66 Truck Stop Water Desert Skull 500 Sign Cold Drinks Metal Vintage Look Casper Wy Coca-cola W/dot Chest Pop Machine~motel Travelier~empty Lot Postcard