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Kelvinator is an appliance company owned by Electrolux of Sweden since 1986. It takes its name from William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, who developed the concept of absolute zero and for whom the Kelvin temperature scale is named. The name was thought appropriate for a company that manufactured ice-boxes and domestic refrigerators.


Kelvinator was founded in 1914, in Detroit, Michigan by engineer Nathaniel B. Wales who introduced his idea for a practical electric refrigeration unit for the home to Edmund Copeland and Arnold Goss.[1]

Wales, a young inventor, secured financial backing from Arnold Goss, then secretary of the Buick Automobile company, to develop the first household mechanical refrigerators to be marketed under the name "Electro-Automatic Refrigerating Company."[2] After producing a number of experimental models, Wales selected one for manufacturing.

In 1916, the name of the company was changed to "Kelvinator Company" in honor of British physicist, Lord Kelvin, the discoverer of "absolute zero" - the standard temperature basis for modern mechanical refrigeration. Kelvinator was among some two dozen home refrigerators introduced to the U.S. market in 1916.[3] In 1918 Kelvinator introduced the first refrigerator with any type of automatic control.[3]

By 1923, the Kelvinator Company held 80 percent of the market for electric refrigerators.[2] In 1926, the company acquired Leonard, which had been founded in 1881. In 1928, George W. Mason assumed control of Kelvinator. Under his leadership the company lowered its costs while increasing market share through 1936.

On January 4 1937, the company merged with Nash Motors to form Nash-Kelvinator Corporation as part of a deal that placed Mason at the helm of the combined company. In 1952, it acquired the Altorfer Bros. Company, which made home laundry equipment under the ABC brand name.

Nash-Kelvinator became a division of American Motors (AMC) when Nash merged with Hudson in 1954. Kelvinator introduced the first auto-defrost model side-by-side refrigerator in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, Kelvinator refrigerators introduced "picture frame" doors on some models allowing owners to decorate their appliance to match décor of their kitchens.

Under the leadership of Roy D. Chapin Jr. AMC sold off its Kelvinator operations in 1968.[4] Kelvinator joined White Consolidated Industries, a company that had also acquired the rights to Frigidaire (formerly owned by General Motors), Gibson, Tappan, and White-Westinghouse product lines.

In the early 1990s, the name of the Dublin, Ohio based holding company changed to Frigidaire Company. In 1986, Frigidaire Corporation was acquired by Sweden's Electrolux and Carrier Corporation acquired Kelvinator.


In 2005, Carrier sold the Kelvinator division to National Refrigeration of Honea Path, South Carolina. National Refrigeration continues to manufacture Kelvinator bunkers, dipping cabinets, blast chillers, reach-ins and low- and medium- temp merchandisers.

The Kelvinator name also lives on at Electrolux in the form of Kelvinator Commercial, which markets chest freezers, ice cream freezers and reach-ins with a stainless steel door.