In fact, Esky branded products had been around for many years by then. The history of Malleys, the makers of the Esky ® , goes back to 1884, when Francis Malley started his sheet metal working business in Sydney. According to the Powerhouse Museum, their first Esky® ice box was produced in that year. If so, the brand kept a low profile until around 1941, when it seems to have been first advertised.
The Esky advertised in 1941 was presented as the smaller version of Malley’s Eskimo Ice Refrigerator – “ideal for small homes and flats”. However, by 1946, the catchy Esky name was being applied to the top of the line model. When a retailer exhibited the Esky Ice Refrigerator at the 1946 Leeton Show, the local paper called it “a vast improvement on the old-time ice chest”. These units were made of steel with handsome chrome fittings and boasted a porcelain-lined food chamber. They were “insulated with the best materials” and the doors were airtight. Of course, they still relied on regular visits from the ice man.
The Esky ®as we know it
The first portable Esky ®, known as the Auto Box, appeared at the time when everyday families were just beginning to acquire cars. It was an insulated box made from galvanised iron “finished in lustrous green baked enamel and chrome”. It held six one-pint bottles and had a three-tray food rack.
In 1984, Nylex started to manufacture the Esky ®. At this point they were made of plastic, with some metal components. Over the years, the materials have changed and the modern Esky comes in a range of shapes and sizes. It is still made in Australia but is owned by the American camping and outdoor gear company, Coleman.