Publication Date

Spring 2019

Subject Area

Section 3: Preserving History


The United States, particularly the city of Chicago, proved to be the center for the development of modern refrigeration. The meat-packing industry of Chicago was known worldwide and proved to be the forefront for technological development in refrigeration. Certain technologies such as refrigerated railway cars and cold storage facilities proved to be monumental to advancement in the industry. The invention of the refrigerator car revolutionized the industry by providing efficient and reliable transport for chilled, packaged meat and removed the old system of transporting livestock, saving immeasurable amounts of money. Cold storage facilities revolutionized the industry through providing efficient year-round storage for packaged meat as well as year-round meat for consumers. Through the work of various meat packing giants, revolutionization of refrigerator technology was made possible. Chicago meat packing titans such as Armour, Hammond, and Swift were key to the development of this transformation. This paper analyzes the development of Chicago’s meat packing industry and its role in refrigeration, and the invention of these key technologies. By analyzing the development of refrigerated transport and cold storage facilities it’s possible to understand that the local and global success of the meat-packing industry was due to the constant evolution of refrigeration technology spanning decades in the United States from the 19th century to the early 20th century.

About the Author

David Ian Smith graduated from Harding University in the fall of 2018 with a BA in history. He currently lives with his wife in Memphis, Tennessee while working, but plans on attending the University of Mississippi in 2020 to pursue a graduate degree in history.