Originally starting as a sawmill, the Tennessee Furniture Company of Chattanooga opened in 1865. It began as an offshoot of the sawmill, in order to sell off the flawed pieces of wood that wouldn’t have sold otherwise. Gaston Raoul was the second owner of the furniture company. He bought an additional enterprise, the Odorless Refrigeration Company, in 1905, which enabled the Tennessee Furniture Company to rapidly become the largest manufacturer of ice coolers in the country. They chose the name “Cavalier” in 1923 for their line of cedar hope chests and soda coolers but they continued to make furniture in the division known as the Tennessee Furniture Company until 1960.
In 1935, during the Depression, the Cavalier division of the Tennessee Furniture Company began a long-standing relationship with the Coca-Cola Company. Under the name “Cavalier”, they made soda machines, coolers and picnic chests to the exacting specifications of the Coca-Cola Company. In 1938 the company name was officially changed to the Cavalier Corporation. Some of the early coolers made by Cavalier include the Junior, Standard, Master and Giant model chest coolers. Cavalier made products exclusively for Coca-Cola right through the 1960’s. In 1958 Cavalier advertising proclaimed they had sold “more than half a million coolers since 1935”.
Post-WWII most vendor manufacturers were focusing on the production of upright machines, but Cavalier continued to concentrate on coolers. In 1945 they introduced the model FD-2, or the dry office cooler. It was designed for low-traffic areas like offices and retail stores. Cavalier joined other manufacturers in producing upright coin-operated vending machines in 1953 when they introduced the C-51. It had a very similar appearance to the Vendo-39; only it was larger and able to vend 51 bottles, as opposed to the Vendo’s 39 bottles.
One of the most popular Cavalier models of vending machine is the CS-72 that was produced from 1958 to 1959. This is still a very desirable machine, since it is able to vend up to nine different flavors of soda. It holds eight bottles on nine slant shelves, instead of using a conveyor system that was capable of vending only one type of soft drink. This innovative model was the first to be designed without the crank handle on the outside. Instead, once the money is deposited, the “Have a Coke” lens lights up, indicating the door is ready to be opened and a bottle of soda pulled out. Cavalier was responsible for many “firsts” in the vending market. The Cavalier Corporation was also the first to introduce a vending machine that was able to dispense either bottles or cans of soda. This was the “square-corner” C-55D vendor introduced in 1959. In the 1960’s Cavalier was taken over by the Seeburg Corporation. In turn, Seeburg was taken over by a succession of companies. In 1987 the Cavalier division filed for bankruptcy and was spun off as an employee-owned company. In August of 2000 the plant was closed for good.
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