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Sunday, January 31, 2021

When Ice Came from the River: Ice Harvesting in Staatsburg

Before the invention of electric refrigeration, how did food and perishables keep cold, especially during the warm summer months?  The answer is ice.  Large blocks of ice cut from a river or lake during the winter would keep food items cool all summer.  But how did the ice move from the river into the home?  To answer that question, we must take a look at the ice harvesting industry, which was active throughout much of the north-east coast of the country (as well as inland, in northern states) between the 1830s and 1920s, and which was dominated for several decades by production on the Hudson River and nearby lakes.

Ice harvesting on the Hudson, 1912
Photo: New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_830