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Servel Wunderbar
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Servel Wunderbar

Carroll Gantz
Dailey, Donald
Servel Wunderbar

Servel, Inc., the sole manufacturer of gas absorption refrigerators since 1926, introduced the Wonderbar, a compact portable refrigerator designed by industrial designer and Servel VP of Product Planning, Donald Dailey. The Wonderbar, made almost completely of Bakelite plastic, was designed to get refrigerators into rooms other than the kitchen. Servel also later introduced the first automatic ice-maker in its full-sized refrigerator, also styled by Dailey and his staff.

Donald Earl Dailey (1914-1997) was born in Minneapolis, MN. He studied marketing and engineering at the University of Toledo (1934-1936) and design at the Toledo Museum School of Design (1936-1937). He began his career in 1937 as design director for Harold Van Doren and Associates of Toledo, and opened a second office in Philadelphia for Van Doren in 1940. He established his own firm in Philadelphia in 1946. In 1950 he became product manager at Servel, Inc. In 1952, he was named their Vice President in charge of Product Planning, and is credited with inventing the term "product planning" and its role for designers in corporations. He left Servel in 1955 to re-establish Don Dailey Associates Inc. in Evansville, IN . Don was an early member of SID and the last president of ASID in 1964 before it became part of IDSA.

Servel was founded in 1902 as the Hercules Buggy Works, and became a manufacturer of electric refrigerators (the name is short for "Serve Electrically"). In 1925, Servel purchased US rights to a new AB Electrolux gas-heat driven absorption refrigerator invented by Swedish engineering students Carl G. Munters and Baltzar von Platen.

There had been consumer deaths due to the toxicity of sulfur dioxide, methyl chloride, and ammonia gases, used in earlier mechanical compressor home refrigerators since 1918. The new concept avoided the use of these toxic gases. The new Electrolux-Servel refrigerator entered the US market in 1926, and after 1927 became the sole gas refrigerator on the US market until the 1950s.

Although quieter and more efficient than electro/mechanical systems, gas heat refrigerators never enjoyed the backing of major manufacturers, nor popularity with consumers, especially after the development of a non-toxic refrigerant gas in 1930.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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