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Thomas, Gerald Ehrmann, 1922-2005



Born on 17 February 1922, Gerald Ehrmann Thomas served in the U. S. Army in the Pacific during World War II where he received a Bronze Star. He received a B. S. in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska in 1948 and an honorary Masters in 1968. Thomas started working as a salesman in 1948 for C. A. Swanson & Sons in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1952 he designed the tray and coined the term for what is known today as the “TV Dinner." Thomas left C. A. Swanson & Sons in 1955 and went to work for the Campbell Soup Company.

He held several director and managerial positions from 1955 to 1970 including sales promotion manager and product marketing manager. In 1960 he designed a four-compartment tray and introduced the first frozen breakfast. Thomas resigned his position as Vice President and Director of Marketing in 1970, after which he served as a private consultant to various food companies.

Thomas was the founding chairman of the National Association of Frozen Food Packers (NAFFP) "Consumer Information Program" in 1962. He served as Chairman of the Board for the American Frozen Food Institute in 1969. Thomas was also active outside of the frozen food industry. He served as director of the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City in 1972 and was a co-founder of Western American Heritage Prints.

Thomas received a number of honors and awards throughout his career. He appeared in Who's Who in Commerce in 1966. In 1979 the University of Nebraska named Thomas a "Distinguished Graduate." Thomas was inducted into the Frozen Food Industry "Hall of Fame" in 1998 and placed his handprints on the Hollywood "Walk of Fame" in 1999. Maxim Magazine named Thomas one of the fifty "Greatest Guys of the 20th Century" in 1999. The History Channel featured Thomas on its show "Lost and Found" in 2000 and again on "American Classics" in 2001. Thomas died of liver cancer in 2005 at the age of 83.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Gerald E. Thomas, TV Dinner Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0116
Scope and Contents Gerald E. Thomas, TV Dinner Papers consists of biographical materials, newspaper articles, awards and nominations, TV and radio interviews, correspondence, financial ledgers, inter-department memo and reports, packaging, and other materials related to the invention of the TV dinner, C.A. Swanson & Sons, Campbell Soup Company, and the American frozen food industry. Art materials include correspondence, photographs, price lists, art exhibition catalogs, and audiovisual materials relating...
Dates: 1926-2005