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The Coca-Cola Salesman Sample Cooler

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The first Coca-Cola salesman sample cooler

Beginning in 1929 with the salesman sample of the Glascock cooler, Coca-Cola provided its salesmen with scaled-down (but exact) versions of their coolers for demonstration purposes. The Glascock was the first standardized cooler for Coca-Cola, and didn't see wide distribution since not all bottlers had yet made the decision to sell coolers. Because of this, these early Glascock salesman sample coolers were produced in a small quantity and they were not widely used or strongly promoted at the time. This makes them rare and very difficult to find today.



The 1929 Salesman Sample Cooler with hard shell leatherette carrying case.

Demonstrations sell coolers and coolers sell Coke.


By 1934 the early Glascock cooler design was replaced by a new art deco inspired cooler designed by Everett Worthington, and manufactured by Westinghouse. Over 45,000 coolers were sold that first year. Beginning in 1935 cooler sales were promoted heavily with yearly sales contests in which the salesmen would compete to see who could sell the most coolers. The winner would be able to  receive a variety of prizes ­— very similar to today's modern incentive programs. 

By 1938 the coolers were getting much more difficult to sell due to the dwindling number of locations that didn't already have one. 75,000 coolers had been sold in 1935, and more than 100,000 were sold in 1936. This reality combined with the fact that the large coolers were very heavy (well over 100 pounds) and difficult to demonstrate — caused the Coca-Cola Company to produce miniature versions of the larger open bottom (non-electric) Master Ice Cooler for 1939 calendar year. Unlike the salesman sample's older brother — the 1929 Glascock — these new 1939 sample coolers were produced in much larger numbers and given to each route salesmen to use for demonstration to his customers. 

This miniature version of the 1939 Westinghouse Master Ice Cooler is exact in every way and is approx. 10.25 inches tall x 12 inches wide x 7.25 inches deep.  It was produced by Kay Displays and came in its own black soft sided leatherette carrying case containing  a sample of "glass wool" insulation and a sample of "Celotex" insulation. Inside the lids of the cooler were attached two sets of cards. One set showed each of the eight models available along with their specifications. The other set contained the various selling points or attributes of the cooler. These sample coolers cost the bottler approximately three dollars each. 

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An example of the 1938 prize booklet for the Cooler Contest and a promotional coin from the contest.

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An example of the 1939 prize booklet for the Cooler Contest. The booklet contained items that the salesman could purchase with their prize money.



The 1939 Salesman Sample Cooler, was a 1/37 scale exact replica of the original full size Master Ice Cooler. This made demonstration of its selling points much easier, since off-loading a full size version from the delivery truck was not required. The carrying bag with the slogan "A Business Builder" is also shown.



Samples of the two types of insulation used in the full size cooler.



Inside the lids of the 1939 Sample Cooler were attached two sets of cards. One set showed each of the eight models available along with their specifications. The other set contained the various selling points or attributes of the cooler.


A closed front sample cooler was needed.

In 1940 the design of the actual cooler was changed by adding a closed front to all models, along with a painted and embossed logo inside each lid. To make the 1939 salesman sample useful for at least one more year, a tabbed front panel was produced to attach to the face of the older sample cooler. This made it look exactly like the 1940 models (with the exception of the new inside lid design, new handles and new skids). These new closed panel attachments cost the bottler approximately 95 cents each. 

Today, many sample coolers are still  found in their leatherette case but with dings and chips, showing a lot of use by the salesman. Many others are found without their case, having subsequently been used as toys for the route worker's children. Original Business Builder book sets are difficult to locate due to the fact that most were discard in 1940 since they were outdated. The full front attachments are also fairly scarce since comparatively few were produced.



The 1940 Salesman Sample Cooler showing addition of the clip-on solid front. The carrying case and insulation samples remained the same, but the sales pages became outdated and were simply deleted.


A desirable artifact for collectors.


For today's collectors the sample cooler has become a desirable piece of Coca-Cola history and is eagerly sought after by cooler enthusiasts, salesman sample collectors and Coca-Cola collectors alike. Luckily due to the large number produced, todays collectors can easily find an example for their collections. Finding a complete example in nearly unused condition though, will always continue to remain a challenge.

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