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DOMELRE First Electric Refrigerator

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First Electric Refrigerator

The DOMELRE was the first successful, mass marketed package automatic electric refrigeration unit.  Invented in 1913 by Fred W. Wolf Jr., charter member of American Society of Refrigerating Engineers. The name DOMELRE is a contraction of DOMestic ELectric REfrigerator The DOMELRE was factory manufactured to be a ready-to-use refrigeration unit that could be delivered, mounted on top of an ice box and simply plugged in. Several thousand were sold between 1914 and 1922.  

The DOMELRE featured a number of innovations:

  • Complete factory made package and ready to install and operate.
  • Automatic temperature control by thermostat.  Refrigeration system control using Automatic Expansion Valve.
  • First household refrigeration system to use an air cooled condenser.  No water connections required.
  • Copper tubing joined with flare type fittings was used for the first time in a refrigeration system.
  • Repulsion start induction AC motor used to reduce starting current.  Full load running current was only 4 amps permitting use on the skimpy home electrical circuits of the time. 
  • First to use a freezing tray for ice cubes.
  • Inexpensive compared to on-site installed refrigeration systems.

Wolf sold the DOMELRE rights to Henry Joy, president of Packard Motor Car Company in 1916, who marketed the refrigeration unit with improvements using the name ISKO.  Isko was purchased in 1922 by Frigidaire who wanted Wolf’s patents to begin producing an air-cooled automatic refrigerator.

The model on display was produced in 1916 and may be the only DOMELRE still extant.

More details on the DOMELRE invention can be seen in the information file accompanying this exhibit.

 Frederick William Wolf Jr. (1879-1954)

Fred Wolf Jr. was born in Chicago, son of Fred W. Wolf who was a refrigeration engineer and architect specializing in brewery construction.  Wolf Sr. obtained rights to manufacture and sell the Linde ammonia refrigeration system  in the United States in 1878.

Fred Wolf Jr. became interested in the possibilities of applying mechanical refrigeration systems to merchants and homes and began promoting small refrigeration systems in the early 1900’s.  Wolf joined the American Society of Refrigerating Engineers as a charter member.  He attended early meetings of the ASRE and participated in discussions of papers presented at the meetings.

Besides refrigeration, Wolf was interested in automobiles, particularly race cars.  Wolf’s grandson mentioned that Wolf built a number of autos of his own design and raced them.  In fact, the Automobile Review reported that Wolf participated in an “endurance run” in August 1902 using a auto of his own manufacture. 

Wolf was an engineer, designer and promoter “remembered for his eccentricities” who established different companies that developed, promoted and manufactured small sized refrigeration systems into the 1920’s.  Some of the machines he designed were the DOMELRE, KOFAX and FRIDGER.  Wolf secured a number of US patents for his designs.  Little is known of his work after 1930.  Wolf passed away in 1954.