Alternative name: fridge.
This is an electric, General Electric, Monitor Top, cream enamelled steel, refrigerator. Of extra large construction with two doors, the unit sits upon a home made, cream painted, wooden cupboard. It was made by General Electric after 1931 and was used in Victoria, Australia.
This fridge was apparently found on the side of the road by the CEO of the State Electricity Commission's Dandenong Office, prior to the mid 1950s. He restored it to working order for use in his home and according to his daughter converted the voltage on the fridge by means of a gadget which is housed in the cupboard underneath the fridge itself. After restoration this fridge was used in Mr. Henson's home. Its size suggests that it is possibly a model made for the commercial/industrial market. To compensate for the loss of storage space in the kitchen due to the size of this fridge, Mr. Henson's wife insisted that extra cupboard space be provided underneath the refrigerator. Mr. Henson therefore built a cupboard which the fridge rested on instead of on its normal legs. The fridge is well insulated and sealed so this cupboard didn't extend to the cool storage but rather was used for non perishables. In about 1956 this fridge was given to a friend of Mr. Henson for use in his holiday home at Rosebud where Charlie and his wife had often stayed. This friend was the father of the donor. The donor and her family continued to use the fridge at this same holiday house until recently when it ran out of gas which cannot be replaced. Because of the high cost of modifying it for re-gassing with a contemporary refrigerant they decided not to restore it to working order.

Physical Description

An extra large, 2 door, rectangular, cream enamelled steel, electric refrigerator with a two door, cream painted, wood cupboard. FRONT: upper centre decorative logo. DOORS: open in the middle, prominent hinges on outer sides. HANDLES - middle centre, horizontal latches on door meet in a single, central catch. BACK: enclosed. TOP: centre 'Monitor Top' refrigeration unit. Exposed grill around unit. At base of unit disk with logo. Left back of Monitor Top, control box with decorative logo and switch. Middle left of Monitor Top 2 black temperature dials. INTERIOR: white enamel with black enamel frame. Upper centre, either side of central frame, 2 horizontally deep, conical storage units. 5 of 6 removable wire shelves 1/2 width, rest on moulded enamel supports. DOORS - deep, white enamel with black enamel frame and white rubber seals. BASE CUPBOARD - cream painted wood. 2 round handles middle centre, 2 hinges on each door at left and right.


The late 1920s / early 1930s 'Monitor Top' represents an early period in the evolution of the domestic refrigerator when fridges were designed to blend in with the general furniture in the house. Hence this fridge took the form of a cabinet on legs. The design of its legs, doors and hinges are reminiscent of those that could be found on a typical kitchen or dining cabinet of the time.
This type of fridge is known as a 'Monitor Top' in America and was so-named by the American public because of the perceived resemblance of the exposed round compressor to the cylindrical turret of the Civil War gun ship, the Monitor. The first General Electric monitor top refrigerator was made available in America to the general public for domestic use in 1927. In America it was considered the first affordable fridge for the average family and was one of the most popular models on the market from 1927 to 1937. However, the 2 and 3 door models that were available were relatively uncommon and today are quite rare. In about 1931 General Electric launched the Australian manufacture of a number of products including the monitor top fridges. It is unknown at this point whether this fridge is American or Australian made. The monitor top fridge is well known for its quiet operation, for being highly dependable and service free and many are still working today, 70 years later. This durability is credited to the fact that it utilised a 'hermetically sealed icing unit', which had no exposed moving parts and was permanently oiled. Adding to its efficiency, the 'monitor top' compressor is mounted on the top of the cabinet, where heat was dissipated above the fridge and not through it.

More Information

  • Collecting Areas

    Home & Community

  • Acquisition Information

    Donation from Ms Merle Mitchell, 10/12/2002

  • Date Made


  • Manufacturer

    Associated General Electric Industries Ltd, Australia, after 1931
    In 1931 General Electric launched the Australian manufacture of a number of products, including the 'Monitor Top' fridge, through Associated General Electric Industries Ltd. It is not known whether this fridge is US or Australian made.

  • Inscriptions

    FRONT: decorative logo "GENERAL GE ELECTRIC". TOP: disk at base of unit "GE/ GENERAL ELECTRIC/ (indistinct text)". Logo on control box "GE". Above switch, written in felt pen "OFF (downward arrow)", below switch, written in felt pen "ON (downward arrow)". Disk below temperature dials "LOWER I RAISE/ TEMPERATURE".

  • Brand Names

    GE (Refrigerators) , Monitor Top (Refrigerators)

  • Classification

    Domestic life, Food & drink preservation, Appliances - electric

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Overall Dimensions

    63.5 cm (Length), 113 cm (Width), 135.5 cm (Height)

  • Wooden Base

    59.8 cm (Length), 112.5 cm (Width), 48.5 cm (Height)
    Measurements are taken between the widest points.

  • Door

    11 cm (Length), 47.5 cm (Width), 82 cm (Height)
    Single door measurement.

  • Keywords