This is our first blog post since the amazing, busy, rainy, fun day that was our Ice Harvest event on February 5th this year. Nearly 800 visitors showed up to help us cut ice from the pond and fill our ice house (overfill, actually. There were so many blocks of ice that there are some still sitting outside!). Thanks to all who showed up, especially after the weather turned nasty in the afternoon. The one advantage that the Hanfords had in the 1800s was that, if the weather was bad, they could just wait until another day to cut their ice!
Ice harvesting was done in some parts of the country well into the 1930s and 40s, but in the late 1800s a new competitor was developed: artificial refrigeration. In 1894, the largest ice making plant of its time was built in Philadelphia for use by the Knickerbocker Ice Company. The company owned very large ice houses along the Hudson River and in Maine for many years, but the shipping of natural ice to a growing market in Philly became expensive. This particular plant used advanced (for the time) gas compressors to create refrigeration large and strong enough to produce 60 tons of “artificial ice” daily, year-round, which more than likely did not fully end the need for ice to be shipped to Philadelphia, but surely reduced it significantly.
The image below comes from the February 10th, 1894 edition of Scientific American, which the Hanford family subscribed to from 1860 through the early 1900s (and which the museum still subscribes to today. Many things have changed with the magazine, of course, one of which is the cost! In the early 1890s, an annual subscription to the magazine, which was a weekly publication then, was $3.00. Today a single monthly issue costs $5.99!).