The Refrigerator

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The Refrigerator
The Ice Trade

In the early 1900s, an American businessman, Frederic Tudor, made his fortune by shipping ice around the world. He outfitted ships with special insulation, packed them with blocks of ice and delivered them to the Caribbean and beyond, making his place in history as the first Mr. Freeze.

The next time you make your midnight foray to the fridge for a piece of pie or a leftover burrito, consider what life would be like without that big cold box. You wouldn't have ice for your drink, and you wouldn't be to keep food fresh. Many of the staples you enjoy like eggs, milk, cheese, meat and butter would have to be purchased in small quantities or not at all. Expand this to the broader landscape, and much of the variety you see in your local market would be impossible to ship, store and sell before it spoiled. You might even have to resort to growing some food yourself to insure that you had a regular supply.

­The father of the modern refrigerator, Carl von Linden, didn't build a cold box; he developed a process that changed a gas into a liquid [source: Behar]. This process had an interesting side effect: it absorbed heat. Refrigerators work by using a system of coils filled with this liquid coolant to transfer heat out of the confines of the refrigerator's insulated compartment.

The first refrigerator built for the purpose of preserving food was made in 1911, and a practical, self-contained model was mass-produced by Frigidaire in 1923. Once production brought the price down, the market for refrigerators grew sharply. As an important refinement, a small freezer compartment used to make ice cubes was soon added. Iceboxes, or insulated boxes filled with ice to keep food cool, were used less and less, and the refrigerator became an essential appliance and a part of the modern home.

Now, we'll take a look at the next essential appliance on the list: the washing machine.

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