Nineteenth Century Ice Cutting, Part 2 (of 3): Staged as the adventures (and discoveries) of a boy in New England in the late 19th century, Lawrence’s Adventures, published in 1871 in Massachusetts, is instructive and entertaining. One of the chapters focuses wholly on the process of Ice-Cutting, and I share this now public domain content along with era-specific images showing the process. The information about how ice companies actually cut the ice from frozen lakes to provide Victorian America with the tons of ice demanded during the spring, summer, and autumn to sustain perishable food, chill beverages, transport perishable food via train, and aid the sick.
Victorian Americans needed ice–for home use, through delivery businesses, on a commercial scale (to keep food from spoiling at the grocery and in railroad transportation). Ice houses were built all over the United States from the independent family’s ice house on their property to the enormous commercial Swift & Co. Ice House storing 60,000 tons annually. Ice harvesting occurred in January and February and kept in storage facilities until the following winter by applying ingenuity, science, and hard work. Men used saws, horse-drawn sleighs, and the strength of their own backs to harvest the cash crop each winter. This article contains vintage photographs, newspaper ads, and science info of the Victorian era.