History Nebraska Blog

How a Nebraska company changed Americans' eating habits

Swanson TV dinner poster Source: Loaned by Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries

Swanson TV dinner poster (Loaned by Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries)

Gerry Thomas, University of Nebraska alumnus and salesman for Omaha-based C. A. Swanson and Sons has been credited with inventing the TV Dinner in 1954. The concept included the now famous three-compartment triangle tray inside a box designed to look like a television set. While Pinnacle Foods Corporation, which now sells Swanson brand foods, considers Thomas the man who invented the frozen meal that launched many imitations, former Swanson employees state that the Swanson brothers themselves invented the product and that many members of the company's marketing and sales staff worked on the project. What is not in dispute is that Swanson was the first to mass-produce and market frozen meals and to coin the term "TV Dinner."

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