Home Illustration

1950 – Gas Refrigerator and Deadly Consequences

A honey with a pipe, a new apron, and a stocked fridge that could be deadly.

Illustration of a couple peering into their Servel Refrigerator – 1950

Here is classic mid-century illustration showing a couple and a refrigerator. The happy couple are giving us a glimpse of their stocked refrigerator. They are ready for quite a feast. Their refrigerator is the gas kind. It was manufactured by Servel.

Servel Gas Refrigerator Ad – Couple looking into Refrigerator – Ladies Home Companion April 1950

Although not as common as the electric kind, Servel boasted of their superior design.

Only Servel the gas refrigerator stays silent, lasts longer because it has no moving parts in its freezing system

The ad continued to make a case for gas vs electric.

Servel operates continuously, because it runs on dependable gas. Even severe storms won’t interrupt it.

As someone living in in an area where the power grid is not always reliable, I was intrigued by the idea of a refrigerator that did not stop working when the electricity was off. After a bit of research, I found that Servel was in fact a popular option in the mid-century and beyond for cabins and other rural locations where electricity was not available. There was one big problem: carbon monoxide leakage. In fact, the US Government went so far as to issue the following warning.

July 22 1998 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Government safety experts continue to warn consumers to stop using Servel gas refrigerators manufactured between 1933 and 1957 due to the risk of carbon monoxide leakage in deadly quantities.

The government stated that there had been 22 carbon monoxide-related deaths involving old Servel gas refrigerators in the US and 60 in Canada.

The Servels continue to be used in hunting cabins, vacation cottages and remote areas of the nation where there is no electricity, or where gas is the preferred energy source.

The notice also gave information about how someone who still had a Servel Gas refrigerator could get $100 for disposing it.

What replaced gas refrigerators for folks living off the grid? Propane.



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