Two of the owners of the Moraine Development Company, Charles Kettering and Colonel Edward Deeds were responsible for rapid changes in the course of history. They formed the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO) and experimented with the starting, lighting and ignition systems for automobiles. After inventing the self-starter, DELCO manufactured the systems.
In 1915, Kettering invented the Delco-Light Set called Little Joe (Photo #1), a small generator that powered many rural farms across the country. Prior to this invention, isolated farms were previously lit by kerosene, candles or gas, if available – to utilize electricity. By 1930, 90% of urban America had the benefit of electricity but only 10% of rural America had been electrified. The generator would run a few hours and store electricity in batteries for use as needed. More than 100 models were built over the years but the 850 watt, 32 volt DC unit accounted for 75% of the production in Moraine. Being a unique 32-volt system, Delco also sold appliances to go with the light generator. The sets were manufactured in the large building on Springboro Pike in Moraine which was previously occupied by the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company.
In 1921, General Motors brought its Frigidaire Division to those same buildings to manufacture the first self-contained refrigerator. The brand was so well known in the refrigeration field in the early 20th century that many Americans called any refrigerator (Photo #3), whatever its brand, a “Frigidaire” – eventually coining the slang term “fridge”.
During World War II, Frigidaire became the scene of wartime production. The facility produced aircraft parts (Photo #4) and components, .50 caliber machine guns and ammunition until peacetime production resumed in December of 1945. After WWII, the plant resumed production of refrigerators. The Frigidaire Company claims the following firsts: electric self-contained refrigerator, home freezer, room air conditioner, 30″ electric range and coordinated colors for home appliances.
The Moraine Historical Marker “Delco Light & Frigidaire” is located on the east side of Springboro Pike just north of Blanchard Avenue.