- Sep 21
1000 B.C. – A means of preserving food
The Chinese cut and stored ice in 1,000 B.C as a means of preserving food.Sep 21
500 B.C. – Earthenware Pots Filled with Water
500 B.C - Egyptians and Indians made ice on cold nights by setting out shallow earthenware pots filled with water.Sep 21
18th Century: Ice from Ponds
18th Century -Farmers began to use and sell ice from their ponds. Ice was consumed by only the wealthy who could afford their own ice houses or by people with their own ponds. In the New England states, the demand for ice towards the end of the 18th century began to increase.Sep 21
1802 – Refrigerated Ice Box Invented
1802 -The refrigerated Ice Box was invented by Thomas Moore.Sep 21
1806 – Beginning of the Natural Ice Trade
Frederick Tudor (aka Ice King) born in 1783-1864, known as the founder of the “Natural Ice Trade”. Tudor came from a wealthy family and instead of following in his brothers footsteps of going to Harvard, he worked in Boston Harbor loading wooden hulled ships. He had the idea of shipping frozen water by ship. Learn more.Sep 21
1815: An Ice Depot in Havana
1815 – Tudor built a functioning ice depot in Havana which could hold 150 tons of ice. 1816 – During this time, Tudor began shipping ice to Southern United States including Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and New Orleans.Sep 21
1820’s: The unsafe process of ice harvesting
1820’s – The whole process of ice harvesting was incredibly unsafe. Sliding 300lb -400lb blocks of ice could crush bones and break limbs. Numb hands, frigid waters and sharp tools made the process dangerous along with drowning men and horses. Only 1/10 of ice harvested made it to sale.Sep 21
1825: A more efficient way to harvest ice
1825 – Nathaniel Wyeth worked with Frederick Tudor to develop a more efficient way to harvest ice. Wyeth devised a new form of horse pulling ice plow that scored the ice into large grids which would triple the amount of ice harvested.Sep 21
1830’s: Expanding ice trade to the world
1830’s – Ice trade began to expand in New England with new trade routes being established around the world. Ice was being exported from the United States to Rio de Janeiro, Sydney Australia and Asia and as far as Calcutta India. Empty ships would be loaded with sugar and fruit on their return to the United States.Sep 21
1840’s: From exports to U.S. expansion
1840’s – The ice industry shifted from exports to expansion within the United States. Wooden Hulled Ships carried fish, butter and eggs alongside ice to other countries. The ice allowed other perishable industries to expand and grow. Ships were important in the early years of the trade for exports since the railroad networks were non-existent. Learn more.Sep 21
1850’s: Continued ice trade expansion
1850’s – During the 1850's the ice industry continued to expand within the United States, with 2 million tons of ice was stored in warehouses throughout the Country. Learn more.Sep 21
1860’s: Ice industry enables consumption of “new” products
1860’s – the ice industry enabled the consumption of a wide range of “new” products. Chilled drinks, ice cream and widespread use of medicines to be used throughout the US and the world. Learn more.Sep 21
1865 – Networking of Railroads Helped Grow The Industry
1865 -Improved networking of railroads helped grow the industry across the country to the West. A special railroad car and loading system was designed and built to transport produce. Learn more.Sep 21
1870’s – The Changing Ice Industry in America
1870’s – the ice industry in America was changing. Cities like New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia saw their populations exploded with immigrants during the years of 1850-1890's driving up the demand for ice. Learn more.Sep 21
1880’s – Enormous Demand and Increasing Production
1880’s – Due to the enormous demand for ice, production of artificial ice slowly began to grow. Despite this emerging competition, natural ice remained vital and the huge demand, driven by the rising living standards, drove the natural ice trade to continue to expand. Learn more.Sep 21
1890’s – The Hudson River Ice Harvest Failed
1890s – In the early 1890's, the Hudson River Ice harvest failed. This created another ice famine, leaving people scrambling for ice. The following year, the summer was cool and there was a decreased demand for ice which had a huge impact on business and many businessmen were ruined. Learn more.
- 1910Jan 01
1900-1910 – Decline in the Natural Ice Trade
1900-1910 – Saw a decline in the natural ice trade due to the Ice famine and the investment in new technologies. Learn more.
- 1917Jan 01
1910-1945: World War I & II Helped to Boost The Natural Ice Trade
1910-1945 World War I & II helped to boost the natural ice trade for a time during the wars. The government worked to promote the use of natural ice to relieve the burden of the shortage of ammonia and coal used in the production of artificial ice. After the war, the natural ice industry collapsed into insignificance and the industry turned to artificial ice and mechanical cooling systems.
As the American society grew more accustomed to fresh meats, milk, fruit and produce, the ice industry expanded into one of the most powerful industries in the nation.
At the turn of the 20th century, nearly every family, grocer and barkeeper in America had an ice box. Ironically, America’s dependence on ice created the very technology that would lead to the decline of the ice empire.Ice revolutionized the way Americans ate and drank. A dependable ice supply made it possible to deliver fresh meats, seafood, dairy and produce to distant markets and keep it safe from spoilage in home ice boxes. Fruit growers and packers capable of shipping refrigerated products worldwide became huge multinational corporations. Ice harvesting eventually became the victim of its own success. Industrialists grew impatient with the unpredictability of natural ice. Water pollution made it difficult to find suitable supplies.
Home delivery continued for a long time, in the 1920’s apartment buildings were still being constructed with ice doors opening into the kitchen. In the mid-1940’s electric refrigerators replaced the ice box.
The natural ice business has melted away with scarcely a trace.