The advent of home refrigeration was responsible for a great improvement in the quality and health of the average diet. Before home refrigeration became common, there were few effective methods to preserve food and keep it fresh.
By the late 1800's "iceboxes" became common in households. They were aptly named because they were simply insulated boxes with a block of ice stored in them to keep items cold. The icebox made fresh food more available and preserved it longer, but families were dependent on regular ice delivery, and had to constantly empty water pans as the ice rapidly melted.
The first home refrigerators, introduced in 1922, were huge, cumbersome units that cost around $700 considerably more than a Ford Model-T at the time. The cooling box part of the refrigerator would be in the kitchen, but the mechanical parts of the unit, the motor and compressor, had to be installed in an adjoining room. Frigidaire came out with a self-contained unit in 1923, and in 1927 General Electric began producing the first refrigerator to be widely used, nicknamed the "Monitor Top" because with the cylindrical compressor mounted on top it resembled the Civil Warship USS Monitor. The use of Freon as a coolant further expanded the adoption of home refrigerators in the 1930s, since it was a safer and less toxic alternative to former coolants.
Self defrosting refrigerators and automatic ice making features came along in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s, more energy efficient refrigerators were introduced, and Freon was replaced with more environmentally friendly coolants.
Refrigerator maintenance tips:
Your refrigerator has coils, located underneath or on the back, and a cooling fan that should be cleaned about once a year. Unplug your refrigerator and clean the coils with a brush. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust, pet hair, etc. from the area. If your refrigerator has a water dispenser or icemaker, be sure to replace the water filter regularly.
For cleaning and deodorizing the inside of your refrigerator, and for cleaning the outside of your stainless steel refrigerator, there are a number of refrigerator cleaners available.