Do You Know Who Invented The Infamous TV Dinner? The Answer Is Complicated

Have you ever wondered who invented the TV dinner
Flickr and Canva

There are some inventions that do not have just one inventor. In the case of the popular TV dinner, different sources say that Gerry Thomas, the Swanson Brothers, and Maxson Food Systems, Inc. all invented the easy to make food option.

It seems as though Maxson Food Systems, Inc. created the earliest frozen meal in 1945. They were called “Strato-Plates” and were first created for airplanes. Airlines wanted to create an easy to heat up complete meal for its passengers. They were also used for the military. Basically, the meal included meat, vegetable, and potato in separate compartments.


No one is sure who actually invented the TV dinner

tv dinner
TV dinner / Flickr

The meals never went from airlines to homes. Since Maxson’s frozen meals were only made for airlines, some feel that other companies were the true inventors of the TV dinner. Several other companies tried and failed, but TV dinners really seemed to grow in popularity when Swanson frozen meals were created.

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Swanson was already a well-known company when they created the frozen meals in 1954. They were the first ones to coin the phrase TV dinner. Do you remember heating up a frozen meal and sitting in front of the television while you ate? It became a popular concept as many families moved from the dining table to the living room to eat dinner.

swanson tv dinner add fried chicken apple peach
Swanson ad / Flickr

It was said that Gerry Thomas, a salesman for C.A. Swanson & Son came up with the idea for the TV dinner. However, Betty Cronin, a bacteriologist who worked for Swanson back in the day said that it was the Swanson brothers who coined the idea.

old swanson tv dinner ad swiss steak
Old Swanson TV dinner ad / Flickr

She said that Gilbert and Clarke Swanson actually had the idea for their popular TV dinners. Betty said she worked on the project to ensure all of the items in the TV dinner would take the same amount of time to heat up properly. This was no easy task as many foods require different internal temperatures to be safely consumed.

While Swanson was the very first company to successfully sell the TV dinner, it is still up in the air who actually invented it.

What do you think?

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