The Coolgardie Safes came in many different
shapes and sizes but all shared the same basic
design. Note the tray above the legs which
was filled with water to stop Ants.
In 1898 gold was discovered in a town called Coolgardie in outback Western Australia and this brought many people to this small town next to a dessert. The climate was very hot and humid and this resulted in rapid food spoilage because there was no refrigeration available in this remote area.
A. P. Mc Cormick found a solution to this problem by inventing a cabinet for storing food which kept it cool by the evaporation of water. The cabinet was originally a timber-framed box with a Hessian-Cover with a tray of water on the top to keep the Hessian wet. As the water evaporated from the wet Hessian it absorbed heat from its surroundings and so kept the content of the cabinet cool. The cabinet stood on legs and another tray was often added between the cabinet and the legs to stop ants climbing up to the food. The cabinet became known as the Collgardie safe and came in many shapes and sizes.
The Coolgardie Safe was not an improvement on available refrigeration techniques or even on the use of Ice. Electricity was simply not available in remote parts of Australia in the late 1890s and making and distributing Ice was just not feasible. The Coolgardie Safe is a good example of Australian ingenuity when faced with a challenge.