Monday, February 18, 2013

A History of Ice

ICE! The Amazing History of the Ice Business
By Laurence Pringle
80 pages; ages 8-12
Calkins Creek, 2012
When you want something cold to drink, you open the fridge. But what did people do before refrigerators were invented? Rural folks could store potatoes and carrots in cool root cellars, or chill perishable foods in a river or spring. But how did city-dwellers keep their meat and milk from spoiling?


Back in the 1800’s ice was a big business. Hundreds of people would show up at a lake to harvest the ice – and the best ice was 10 inches thick. Lawrence Pringle gives us a glimpse into a very cool business, one with its own tools and skill set. There were men who sawed the ice, men who hauled the ice, men who packed it between layers of sawdust in insulated houses that would keep it through the summer months, and men who delivered 25-pound blocks up three flights of stairs to apartment iceboxes.

Pringle accompanies his tale with photos of ice saws and tongs – who knew there were so many kinds? And he describes ice riots caused by warm winters, when the lakes didn’t freeze. It was those warm winters that drove the invention of more reliable refrigeration.

Altogether a fun read for a winter day. This is part of the Nonfiction Monday round-up, hosted today by Roberta over at Wrapped in Foil. Review copy provided by publisher.


  1. This looks like a very interesting book. It would be good to show children that refrigeration has not been around forever.

    1. I spent a couple months on an island with no electricity; so no refrigeration. It was interesting, not impossible, but we really missed icy cold lemonade!

  2. Thanks for reviewing this book. I thought this was such an interesting book when I read it and I can remember wondering about how people got ice in the 1800s when I was a kid. I finally got my answer.

  3. This sounds like a good book about social history and technology, how one impacts the other. Thanks foe the recommendation. I'll look for it.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  4. Well, this is a rather different kind of book! And how interesting. Who knew ice had a history?! I think I want to find out more! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I thought this was fascinating and intend to buy a copy for my school library, but everyone looks at me like I'm crazy when I say it was really fun. Glad to see someone else liked it!

  6. My dad was really into practical history like this. Brings back fond memories. Thanks for sharing!