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The History of TV Dinners

In 1954, Gerry Thomas invented both the product and name of Swanson TV Dinner

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Swanson TV Dinner

Swanson TV Dinner

Courtesy of the Pinnacle Foods Corporation
Gerry Thomas is the man who invented both the product and the name of the Swanson TV Dinner. In 1954, Swanson TV Dinners fufilled two post-war trends: the lure of time-saving modern appliances and the fascination with a growing innovation, the television. More than 10 million TV dinners were sold during the first year of Swanson's national distribution. For $.98 per dinner, customers were able to choose among Salisbury steak, meatloaf, fried chicken, or turkey, served with potatoes and bright green peas; special desserts were added later.

The food groups in a TV dinner were displayed neatly in a divided metal tray. A representative tray was placed in the Smithsonian Institution in 1987 to commemorate the trays impact on American culture. Celebrity figures from Howdy Doody to President Eisenhower touted the dinners.

Swanson removed the name "TV Dinner," from the packaging in the 1960s. The Campbell Soup Company replaced the aluminum trays of Swanson frozen TV dinners with plastic, microwave-safe trays in 1986. That same year, the orginal aluminum Swanson TV Dinner tray was inducted into the Smithsonian Institute, sealing TV Dinners' place in American cultural history. In 1999, Swanson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Pinnacle Foods Corporation, the current owners of Swanson products since 2001 recently celebrated fifty years of TV Dinners and Swanson TV Dinners still remain in the public conscience as the dinner phenomenon of the 50s that grew up with television.

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