Crosley IcyBall

Crosley bought the rights to the Icyball refrigeration idea, and brought it to market. Powel Crosley had a gift for recognizing great ideas and gift for marketing. Crosley built thousands of Icyballs in at least two factories, one in the United States and one in Canada. Icyballs have been spotted throughout North America and as far away as Africa. The Canadian made Icyballs carry a tag indicating that they are Deforest Crosley Icyball, those made in the USA are labeled Crosley Icyball.

The Icyball is an intermittent heat absorption type of refrigerator. A water/ammonia mixture is used as the refrigerant . Water and ammonia combine easily. So, they combine in the hot ball at room temperature.

When the hot ball is heated, for about 90 minutes, the ammonia evaporates first because it has a lower boiling point than water. The other cylinder is in water to help condense the ammonia in the cold ball. When the balls are fully charged, the cold ball is placed in the insulated box, as the ammonia evaporates to recombine with the water in the hot ball it removes heat, cooling the inside of the refrigerator for 24+ hours. A hole in the cold ball was for a special ice cube tray.

If the above isn't completely correct, it's because I really don't know anything about refrigeration, feel free to Email me and correct me. This page is our complete file on the Icyball if you have additional ads or information please let me know.

Online Operation Manual

Icyball at the Smithsonian

The exhibit at left was found while wandering through the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington DC.

The display tells how Ferdinand Carre discovered the absorption refrigeration cycle in the mid 1800s. In around 1858 he marketed the black device above the Icyball for use as a cooling device in homes.

The Carre absorption cycle was an outgrowth of an observation by Michael Faraday in 1823 of the cooling properties of ammonia and silver chloride enclosed in a bent glass tube. The ammonia absorption system was similar to the process Edmund Carre, Ferdinand's brother discovered that used strong acids under a vacuum but was much more practical.

Deforest Crosley IcyBall SN-775
Built in Toronto

This Icyball was found in the Toronto area and is in very good condition. It was successfully put through a heat charge cycle on November 28th 1998. It produced a temperature of 18 degrees F, in the ice cube tray hole with no insulated box to help the process. Not bad for a 70+ year old refrigerator. (lab report)


Don't try this with your Icyball unless you are very careful, outdoors, and reasonably sure of the condition. Read the Operation Manual.

Patent Coverage

The first Icyball Patent was filed on June 27, 1927 by David Forbes Keith, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and issued on Dec. 24th 1929. The patent has 7 figures included. Fig 1 is an overall cross sectional diagram. Fig 2-4 are external features and construction. Fig 5-7 are charging and operational diagrams. These figures are included in the Patent link but are included here for those that do not want to wade through the patent.

A second improvement Patent was filed on Feb 20th 1930 by Russell T. Smith assigned to Crosley Radio Corporation and issued on June 23rd 1931. The second patent has 1 Figure showing a cross sectional view of the Icyball showing changes and general operation.

If you had X-Ray Vision

This is what you would see looking at a charged Icyball. The left ball is the cold ball and has liquid ammonia in it after the heat cycle, with gas evaporating off the surface, on its way to reunite with water in the hot ball on the right.

Many thanks to Eddie,Igor, John and others for their help with the Icyball info for this page.

Icyball Ads

A few ads have shown up so far, both full page and smaller. The "Farm Mechanic" magazine was one of Crosley's favorite for advertising with 3 full page ads that I have heard about, I have only found one and have a scan of a second. The one to the Left was the outside back cover of the September 1928 issue. Country Gentlemen is another good source I have heard of two, only managed to get copies of one so far.

Go to the Icyball ad page for more.

Crosley Broadcaster Feb 15, 1929

These two pieces are from the Crosley newspaper they sent to dealers.

The cover to the left shows several interesting Icyball applications. Lower left is a large 2 Icyball cooler and the bottom picture shows an Icyball water cooler.

Large for Printing (370K)

Large for Printing (200K)


Scientific American September 1929

Small Screen Readable(140K)
Large for Printing (350K)

Crosley Broadcaster April 15th 1929

"The Shuler Supply company of New Orleans, La., use a large chest on an over-size trunk rack to transport the Crosley Icyball Refrigerator to any part of the city for demonstrations. The large sides of the chest are used as advertising space to bring the Crosley Icyball Refrigerator to the public eye when Shuler salesmen speed from one demonstration to another"

Flea Market Sightings Home Built

Seen at a Steam Tractor show in Southern Indiana

Spotted at the 1998 Kent CT Tractor & Engine Show. Notice that the cold ball is different from the diagrams and Icyball 775 show above. Not sure when they changed or why. Any ideas? Is it the difference between Canadian and US built units? A reader with a sharper eye than mine wrote to point out that this is a left handed Icyball, intended for hanging off the left side of a cabinet instead of the more common right.

The Sign says "What is This?", since the Crosley Club's Yankee Region was at the show, he got tired of being told.

Some people make their own Icyball. Larry Hall built this one and it worked great.

For pictures of some home made Icyballs and Larry Hall's plans to build your own click on the picture to the right.

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