Dumb question about ice

Was there a market for ice prior to the discovery (or harnessing of) electricity for refridgeration? In other words, was there a method of making ice in 1820 short of waiting for winter or travelling to the hoary Artic? If there was a method, were people using it and selling ice to the wealthy elite or was commercial ice something that came upon the populace in one economic status shattering wave?

I know we used ice boxes with a chunk of bona fide ice before refridgerators, but was this ACME Ice Co. making ice using refridgeration that the common Joe didn’t have access to or were they using some other sort of water freezing voodoo?

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Before mechanical refridgeration technology, everyone waited for winter. People would go out onto the river or the local lake and cut chunks of the ice. They would store it in an “ice house”, basically a warehouse insulated with straw. If they harvested enough over the winter they would still have enough to use over the summer.

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University

“There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be.”
-Charles Sanders Pierce

I read about some enterprising entrepeneur who chipped up huge blocks of ice, insulated it with straw, put it on a boat, and sailed it to some locale in or near the Caribbean (I think it was Jamaica, but it might have been Key West). He then made a killing selling primitive sno-cones (fruit juice poured over crushed ice) to the locals, who asked him what kind of tree the stuff grew on!

Ice was usually gathered from cutting it from lakes in the days before refrigeration and stored in warehouses insulated with straw. These were delivered to the home.

Originally, insulation was used to keep the ice from melting in the warmer months. The first refigeration systems (which were developed in the mid-1800s) were too inefficient for home use, but worked just fine to keep an ice warehouse cold. So the iceman would harvest the ice in winter and put it into a cool warehouse where it was distributed.

When I was very young my grandparents had a cottage on an island. In the winter the local farmers would saw large blocks of ice out of the lake and take them up to the “ice house” by the cottage. Several other cottages nearby also had ice houses-basically just a shed. The floor of the ice house was piled at least four feet deep in sawdust and the ice was buried in the sawdust. All summer you could go out there, dig out a block of ice, chop off a lump, rinse it off, and put it in the icebox to keep food cool. The icebox looked like a small wooden upright refrigerator, insulated, and lined inside with zinc metal.

Ice farming was a very popular occupation around here during the winter. There are plenty of pictures floating around in resturants and other public buildings showing horses pulling large saws, sleds full of ice being carted off to the ice houses, etc. There is still an ice house in Fall River on the shore North Wattuppa Pond. Big ol’ empty, granite building with trees growing out from the middle of it. Its a neat looking old ruin.


I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine - Kurt Vonnegut

In the northeastern section of the Island of Sicily, they have a natural ice maker and a year 'round supply of ice conveniently located near the cities of Catania and Messina.
On the northern face of Mt. Etna, above the frost line and in near constant shade, there is a cave with a large opening. During the winter, water run-off and snow naturally drain to this cave and freeze solid. So much water is collected and frozen, there is always ample ice throughout the hottest months of the Mediterranean summer.
Many of the small towns dotting the sides of the largest active volcano in Europe still rely on the ice generated in this cave for emergency food preservation. Electrical service is spotty at best on the mountain. There is also a great picnic spot about 500 ft. below the cave. Even on the hottest days, heavy cool air roils down from the caves mouth cooling this boulder-strewn meadow. A big plus is the view of mainland Italy on clear days.

Ice-making machines did exist before modern refrigeration. They were usually huge and expensive, and were never intended for home use.

IIRC, one such machine worked by wetting the inside of a large metal cylinder, and misting the outside with ammonia. A bunch of fans blew air over the ammonia, which made it evaporate quickly; this caused a thin film of ice to freeze on the wet inside. This ice was scraped off by a rotating blade, and mechanically packed into blocks.

Though this was a complex and inefficient operation, I daresay it was preferable over repeated expeditions to the Arctic.

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

OK let’s not be euro-centric here. Ice making dates all the way back to the middle kingdom in Egypt. The Egyptians had a marvelous ability to use what we would consider primative technology to make things that leave us scratching our heads in wonder. I believe it had something to do with the wind.

“If you stick your finger in a pie, whatever is in the pie will be on your finger, and whatever is on your finger will be in the pie…unless you wear a rubber glove”----some demented old lady

Oh, now THERE is an answer that explains all… < rolling eyes and wondering when respondents will start adding supporting information that actually helps the curious >

I read about this Egyptian ice-making method in a sf story, so I can’t guarantee that it’s authentic, but the method sounds plausible.

Despite how hot the desert gets during the day, it gets quite cool at night. Supposedly the pharaohs set up these stone columns that would get cool enough that a drop of water placed on one would turn into frost. Multiply by a thousand, and you have enough frost for say a cup of sherbet.

I once read that when someone arrived in the port of Calcutta with a boatload of ice–thinking India’s heat and wealth would make it a perfect customer–the people wouldn’t touch it! They were actually afraid of ice.

DSYoungEsq scraped up enough brain cells to write this

First of all: Fuck off!

Secondly: The intent of the original question had pretty much been answered already. I was just trying to add some information that I heard in an ancient Egypt class I once took. The egyptians did in fact make ice. They also did a lot of other things that we don’t know how they were accomplished. Supposedly the great library in Alexandria contained a lot of this information, but…
So, if you want supporting documentation, I suggest you build a time machine and go look it up yourself.

Next: After reading your profile, I suggest a career change.

Lastly: Fuck off!

“If you stick your finger in a pie, whatever is in the pie will be on your finger, and whatever is on your finger will be in the pie…unless you wear a rubber glove”----some demented old lady