Archival Collection #013 - Leonard Refrigerator Company contains papers of the Leonard Refrigerator Co., an outgrowth of a Grand Rapids manufacturing business established in 1845. The refrigerator company was founded in 1880 by Charles H. Leonard, later merging with Kelvinator Corporation in 1926. White Consolidated Industries bought Kelvinator in 1968 and continued to this date producing electric cooking appliances. The five boxes of materials consists primarily of refrigerator catalogs from Leonard, Kelvinator and its competitors – service information which primarily concerns Kelvinator ranges. The collection also includes pamphlets, product bulletins, personnel records, correspondence, a government document, two books and relia.
A full listing of the contents of this collection can be found in the Finding Aid that is attached to the media section of this catalog entry.
Leonard Refrigerator Company Leonard Refrigerator Co. developed as an outgrowth of a manufacturing business established by Herman Leonard in 1845 and later assumed by his sons, Charles H. and Frank E. In 1880 Charles, having an inventive mind, decided to help end the problems and inconveniences of contemporary refrigerators by designing on which would save ice and could be kept clean. He took out a parent on a dry-air, self-circulating, internal=ventilating refrigerator and was granted a patent in 1882 for removable flues. For the first two years the refrigerators were manufactured at the William A. Berkey factor and later moved to a new factory established at the sight of the old gas works between Ottawa and Market Avenues. Later the company bought 26 acres on Clyde Park Avenue, where it remained for most of its operating years. The crockery and refrigerator units of H. Leonard and Sons formally separated in 1893.
The Leonard Refrigerator Co. became recognized for its innovative product line and its emphasis on the “cleanable” refrigerator. They were granted a copyright for the use of the word “cleanable, “and also adopted the slogan, “Like a clean dish.” The company held many patents for its designs and developments in refrigeration. IN 1918 a joint effort by Leonard and Kelvinator produced the first cabinets designed for electric household refrigerators.
In 1926 Electric Refrigerator Corporation of Detroit bought three refrigerator manufacturers under its domain – Nizer Corporation, Kelvinator Corporation, and Leonard Refrigerator Co. Together they became the largest refrigerator manufacturer.
Leonard was to continue its own refrigerator line as well as supply Nizer and Kelvinator with models which those corporations did not manufacture for themselves. In 1931 the Leonard ice box was discontinued, but Kelvinator retained use for the Leonard name due to its association with quality and innovation. The Nash automobile company and Kelvinator merge in 1937, and during the 1930s – 1950s expanded its manufacturing to include an entire range of household products.
White Consolidated Industries bought Kelvinator in 1968 and closed the Grand Rapids plant, still on Clyde Park Avenue, in 1987.
Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company Grand Rapids, Michigan.
SEE ALSO Kelvinator-Leonard-A.B.C. Company HIstory
1883: Company founded.
ca. 1901: Some refrigerators are manufactured under the name Northern Refrigerator Co. of Grand Rapids.
1926: Company merges with Kelvinator (Detroit, Mich.); name changes to Kelvinator-Leonard Co.
1958: Kelvinator-Leonard Refrigerator acquires Altorfer Brothers Co. (A.B.C.) of Peoria, Illinois, and changes its name to Kelvinator-Leonard-A.B.C. Personnel
The founding members of the Grand Rapids Refrigerator Co. were Charles Leonard, president; Frank Leonard, vice-president; and Fred H. Leonard, secretary and treasurer. Products
Manufacturer of the Leonard Cleanable, Northern Light, and Challenge Refrigerators. In the 1890s the company also manufactured "catalogue cabinets", "shoe wardrobes", shaving cabinets, and folding boot racks. These featured porcelain-line steel inner compartments and solid ash exteriors. The company held patents for a number of other features, including removable interior walls which could be washed, air-tight locks, solid iron shelves, and an interior designed to preserve ice. In 1909 the company advertised combination refrigerators with a table surface on top, which could be substituted for a kitchen table in small kitchens, or combined with a "kitchen cabinet set" on top, to create a refrigerator/Hoosier cabinet. In 1910 the company innovated seamless inner compartments in its refrigerators.
In 1914 the company began an association with Kelvinator, which made electric, mechanical refrigeration systems, and introduced its own electric refrigerators. After the merger with Kelvinator, the company phased out ice box production. After the merger with A.B.C., the company diversified into production of electric ranges, washers, dryers, hoome freezers, and refrigerated cabinets for commercial use, in addition to refrigerators.