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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Grand Rapids Refrigerator Co.

1883 - 1926

Grand Rapids, Michigan


1883: Company founded.

ca 1901: Some refrigerators are manufactured under the name Northern Refrigerator Co. of Grand Rapids.

1926: Company merges with Kelvinator; name changes to Kelvinator-Leonard Co.

1958: Kelvinator-Leonard Refrigerator acquires Altorfer Brothers Co. (A.B.C.) of Peoria, Illinois, and changes its name to Kelvinator-Leonard-A.B.C.


The founding members of the Grand Rapids Refrigerator Co. were Charles Leonard, president; Frank Leonard, vice-president; and Fred H. Leonard, secretary and treasurer.


Manufacturer of the “Leonard Cleanable,” “Northern Light,” and “Challenge” Refrigerators. In the 1890s the company also manufactured “catalogue cabinets,” “shoe wardrobes,” shaving cabinets, and folding boot racks. These featured porcelain-lined steel inner compartments and solid ash exteriors. The company held patents for a number of other features, including removable interior walls which could be washed, air-tight locks, solid iron shelves, and an interior designed to preserve ice. In 1909 the company advertised combination refrigerators with a table surface on top, which could be substituted for a kitchen table in small kitchens, or combined with a “kitchen cabinet set” on top, to create a refrigerator/Hoosier cabinet. In 1910 the company innovated seamless inner compartments in its refrigerators.

In 1914 the company began an association with Kelvinator, which made electric, mechanical refrigeration systems, and introduced its own electric refrigerators. After the merger with Kelvinator, the company phased out icebox production. After the merger with A.B.C., the company diversified into production of electric ranges, washers, dryers, home freezers, and refrigerated cabinets for commercial use, in addition to refrigerators.

The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998. 

Full Details

TitleGrand Rapids Refrigerator Co.
Year Opened1883
Year Closed1926
Also Known AsKelvinator-Leonard-ABC, Leonard Refrigerator Co., Northern Refrigerator Co. of Grand Rapids

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