Alternative Name(s) Fridge

General Electric (GE), Monitor Top CK-2-C16, white refrigerator. The standard, rectangular unit sits on four feet. Atop the unit is the 'monitor top' compressor. It was made in the USA after 1935.

It was used by the donor's sister in Johannesburg, South Africa and Australia. The donor got the item from her sister who purchased it from GE in 1935. It was brought out to Australia by the donor's sister from Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1969 the motor burned out so a friend acquired a new transformer for it. The donor, who married in 1937, came to stay with her sister in Australia in May 1979; she went back to South Africa in 1985 to renew her visa and returned to Australia in 1988.

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. In c.1931 General Electric launched the Australian manufacture of a number of products including monitor top fridges. 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.

Physical Description

A standard, white, electric, monitor top refrigerator, the rectangular unit on four feet. FRONT: foot pedal attached to the front, left foot. DOOR: 2 hinges at right, silver metal and white enamel. HANDLE - horizontal lever left, middle. TOP: monitor top unit in solid cylinder with moulded element details. Black electrical cord with socket for integral plug attached at rear base of the monitor top. Attached to the cord with red electrician's tape a further black cord with 2 pronged plug. Temperature dial front centre: gilt background with corrugated motif, silver metal disk applied to this and black dial with arrow motif at the centre. A switch at the back under the monitor top. BACK: enclosed. Upper centre, 2 pronged plug sunk into unit. INTERIOR: white enamel with black trim screwed to frame. Back middle, right exposed light bulb. Front, middle right light release button. 12 metal pegs for three removable wire shelves. FREEZER COMPARTMENT - polished silver metal door, logo moulded in the middle, hinged at right. A small bar handle at left. Two internal compartments with 1 fixed shelf. DOOR - white enamel with black trim. Remains of paper label applied upper centre. This type of fridge is known in the USA as a 'monitor top' because the compressor is on top of the cabinet. See supp file for further details.

More Information

  • Collecting Areas

    Home & Community, Migration & Cultural Diversity

  • Acquisition Information

    Donation from Mrs De Jager, 29 Jan 1991

  • Manufacturer

    General Electric Corp., Schenectady, New York State, United States of America, post 1935
    Latest patent dated 21st May 1935.

  • Place & Date Used

    Johannesburg, South Africa, 1935-1978

  • Inscriptions

    TOP: moulded on silver component of the temperature dial "DEFROST (downward arrow) O COLDER (downward arrow)". Back, middle, metal disk, silver lettering on black background : "GENERAL GE (in script) ELECTRIC/ TYPE CK-2-C16 REFRIGERATION MACHINE/ REFRIGERANT CONTENT 2-70 LB SULPHUR DIOXIDE/ TEST PRESSURES 150 LB. LOW SIDE 202 LB. HIGH SIDE/ UNITED STATES PATENTS 1456110 1637042 1683132 1698306 1725174/ 1725472 1797029 1797030 1812748 1864678 1904559 1913186 1921126/ 1955702 1974991 1992835 2002444 RE-18621/ SINGLE PHASE MOTOR/ 110 VOLTS 50-60 CYCLES A.C. 1/8 HP. FULL LOAD AMP. 2.2-4.3/ USE CONTROL CAT M1A121 RELAYCAT.M1A62/ N.P.64168 SCHENECTADY, N.Y. MADE IN U.S.A." Far left hand corner metal tag moulded "5420094". On either side of the switch at the back "R" and "D". BACK: On the sunk plug "G.E.C.O./ U.S.A./ 10A. 250V./ 15A. 125V." INTERIOR: FREEZER COMPARTMENT - "GE" in script moulded centre of door. DOOR - paper label "E" from GE logo, "GENERAL ELECTRIC/ SYMBOL OF RESEARCH MARK OF DEPENDABILITY".

  • Brand Names

    GE (Refrigerators) , Monitor Top (Refrigerators)

  • Classification

    Domestic life, Food & drink preservation, Appliances - electric

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Overall Dimensions

    59 cm (Length), 71.8 cm (Width), 160.4 cm (Height)

  • Other Dimensions

    29.8 cm (Length), 29.5 cm (Width), 19.1 cm (Height)
    Freezer Compartment

  • Other Dimensions

    8.5 cm (Length), 56 cm (Width), 85.5 cm (Height)

  • Other Dimensions

    27 cm (Height), 48 cm (Outside Diameter)
    Compressor Unit

  • Keywords

    Refrigerators (Domestic), Domestic Appliances, Domestic Work, Housework, Immigration, Migration & Settlement