Esky, the Forerunner of the Ice Box

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Ice boxes have come a considerably long way since those galvanized steel-lined wooden boxes that had made their appearance during the 1940s. In fact, nowadays there is simply no comparison between those early beginnings and the insulated ice boxes of today. The trade name of Esky was actually registered in 1961, although the manufacturer, Francis Malley, had been making an earlier version of a cool box since 1884. The portable cooler box actually came into being in 1952 and was sold under the name of “Auto Ice Box”. The coolers produced in the mid-1960s consisted of an insulated metal box, used to transport food and drink. The outdoor lifestyle that Australians enjoyed added to the popularity of this early insulated cooler and the ice box eventually evolved into the symbol of Australia’s love of the outdoors. Today, Australians generally refer to any insulated cooler box as an Esky.

The connotations with the Esky coming from a diminution of the word Eskimo goes back to the genuine Esky’s original packaging. This showed the picture of a child smiling out at you from a brightly colored background, dressed as an Eskimo. The 1959 advertising slogan for the genuine product including the immortal words “Cool, man, cool” also advocating that you “Take the party with you”. Beside this slogan were the words “Malley’s New Look Esky, Smooth, Sleek, Streamlined”. Another advertising slogan for these earlier cool box products was “Just as essential in the boot as the jack”. Much of the advertising at that time was aimed at the motorist, with advertisements appearing in motoring magazines of that era.

The packaging during the 1960s remained colorful and featured other characters all smiling at you, portraying their happiness at their foresight in taking their cooler on their travels. The advertising slogan from 1960 stated that “500,000 happy picnickers” were proud owners of their particular brand of ice box. In fact, since the Esky became a registered trade mark in 1961 to the current date, more than 5 million of this brand of cooler has been sold in Australia alone. The original product was manufactured quite simply as a rectangular box lined with metal, with an internal lining of sheet plastic. Cork sheeting formed the insulating layer, while the metal was the material encasing it, both inside and out. The plastic formed an additional internal lining. Inside the box was a tray made from white plastic.

At the base of the early coolers was a black plastic bung that could be screwed in and out, making it easier to drain it of excess liquid. A rubber gasket fits around the top of the box, providing an effective seal between lid and box. Meanwhile, the lid could be secured by means of a metal bracket that had a locking mechanism fitted into the carrying handle on the lid. Traditionally, they had a metal carrying handle set into the lid. The lid itself was white and was lined with galvanized steel. This early version had sufficient room to keep six one-pint bottles cold. Of course, due to its insulating properties, a cool box is extremely buoyant and this has been used to the advantage of anglers on numerous occasions. Used as a handy life-jacket, the ice box has been attributed with saving the lives of numerous fishermen, whose boats have capsized, keeping the people afloat until help arrived.

Each Malley cooler carried the slogan “Malley’s Esky Portable Cooler” that was attached to both sides of the box by means of a transfer. The design and shape of these cooler boxes continued to evolve, hastened in 1984 when a new manufacturer took over its production. The new owner was a company called Nylex who introduced new designs, new shapes and new colors. It was under the manufacture of Nylex that the Esky started to be made using plastic. Other innovations included the use of CFC foam for insulation instead of the cork sheeting as well as the size of the box being increased to cope with the increased demands placed upon it by the needs of the modern family.

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Source by Alan Rich

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