October 29, 2022 | Last updated Jul 14, 2023

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.”

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: Phelps County

Marker Monday: Phelps County

Why John G. Neihardt was named Nebraska Poet Laureate in 1921

Why John G. Neihardt was named Nebraska Poet Laureate in 1921

Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

Emigrants along the Trails at Chimney Rock

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.