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Well into the 20th century, "ice men" delivered blocks of ice door-to-door following established routes both in rural areas and in towns. People placed order cards in a front window of their house to indicate the size of ice block they needed - 5, 10 or 20 pounds. The ice man placed the block of ice in an "ice box" where it kept perishable food cold (much like in a cooler you might take to a ball game or camping today). When the ice block melted away, the ice box was cleaned out of remaining ice and melt water to make way for a fresh block. Although by the 1940's most ice boxes were replaced by electric refrigerators, many older people today still refer to their refrigerator as an "ice box." The woman in this picture playfully holds out a glass to receive her delivery of a block of ice as the ice man grips the ice block with tongs especially designed to carry the heavy, slippery ice. The ice business required four things: a source of clean ice (like a pond or lake); workers who knew how to "harvest" the ice; large insulated storage areas to keep the ice through the hot summer; and a means of delivering the ice to the customers, usually a fleet of horses and wagons ( by the 1930's more likely to be a motorized truck). Because of their well developed delivery system, many ice companies also delivered coal and some eventually became home heating oil delivery companies as the ice business melted away with the wide spread use of electric refrigerators.


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Ice delivery

photographer   Unidentified
date   1929
process/materials   copy print
item type   Photograph/Photograph
accession #   #1996.37.01.089

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See Also...

Weighing Ice with Steelyard

Ice Harvesting

Lifting Ice from the Water

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