Communicating the refrigerator to Belgian women in ‘Libelle’ 1945-1965

Willem Scheire

This essay will focus on the refrigerator, a nowadays nearly universally adopted appliance in Belgian homes. Very few kitchens do not preserve a prominent place for this apparatus, and we use it in general everyday, several times a day. The refrigerator has strongly influenced and changed ways of preserving, preparing, cooking and eating food. This essay looks at the mediation and commercial promotion of the object, for which advertisements and texts in the magazine Libelle were studied from 1945 to 1965. Refrigerator ownership started at a low point at the beginning of this period, but increased to around 50  of the population by the mid 1960s. The aim of this essay is to research if and how the refrigerator as a consumer object, but also refrigeration as a practice, was communicated to a Belgian (female, middle-class) audience. The main questions are: how was the refrigerator presented, was desirability for refrigerators and refrigeration generated, and with which textual and visual arguments? I will consider the frequency of advertising and texts for refrigerators, and analyze the text and images in a qualitative way. Which information can be retrieved from the advertisements, who promoted the fridge and which persuasion strategies were used, how was the refrigerator made understandable for the reader public and which arguments were part of the discourse on refrigeration? Before answering these questions, the essay starts with some theoretical and methodological perspectives on the mediation of technology and consumer objects, and the use of magazines and advertisements as a historical source.