Antique Ice Boxes And Vintage Fridges

antique ice boxes

Ah…. the vintage ice box. They are something you don’t see very often outside of Ebay and old house museums, but when you come across one by chance, it’s a thrill.

Let’s take a closer look at these relics from the past.

Nobody can say with any certainty who invented the concept of refrigeration. People first began freezing water in China around 1,000 B.C., and many societies placed snow in insulated containers to keep foods cool, according to the International Journal of Refrigeration.

vintage ice box

In the 18th century, Europeans often harvested chunks of ice in the winter and salted the ice before storing it deep underground, and this would actually keep the ice from melting for months. Before the invention of the in-home ice box, people spent a lot of time preserving food for the colder months by canning, smoking, drying, or salting.

vintage ice box

In the early 1860s the icebox was introduced to the American public – an item that fit right into your kitchen and it was almost furniture-like in appearance.

vintage ice box

Iceboxes became more popular with middle and upper-class families in the 1890s.

vintage ice box

Wooden ice boxes were commonplace at first but metal and cast iron cabinets soon overtook the wood boxes in terms of sales and popularity.

vintage ice box

Ice boxes were quite literally what their name described: insulated boxes in which ice would be stored in order to keep perishable foods cool. Ice boxes had a designated compartment for the block of ice and fresh ice would have to be inserted every week or so.

vintage ice box

Metal ice boxes came in a variety of colors to appeal to a large swath of homeowners.

vintage ice box

It is interesting to see how contemporary people display old ice boxes.

vintage ice box

If you are wondering how much these antiques sell for in today’s market…. it depends on the size and condition.

vintage ice box

vintage ice box

They are listed anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars on Ebay.

vintage ice box

In the early 20th century, larger ice boxes with multiple compartments became more common.

vintage ice box

Manufacturers even began designing ice boxes to match cookstoves.

vintage ice box

Believe it or not, there are actually still people who use antique ice boxes to this day.

vintage ice box

So what do the interiors of these things look like?

vintage ice box

Even the ice boxes made of wood had a tin or zinc lining which was tightly packed with straw, sawdust, cork, or seaweed for insulation.

Cheaper models of ice boxes had drip pans that had to be emptied by hand daily, while more expensive versions had spigots for draining melted ice into a holding tank.

vintage ice box

Another burning question you may be asking: Where did the housewives get the ice blocks to put in their ice boxes?

Ice was cut from the surface of ponds and streams and then stored in ice houses, before often being shipped long distances by boat, barge, or railroad. Networks of horse-drawn ice wagons were then used to distribute the blocks to domestic and smaller commercial customers.

vintage ice box

The illustration below shows how the ice boxes were designed to move cool air throughout the cabinet.

vintage ice box

The designers put some thought into these things!

Today, the ice boxes of yesteryear are often cleverly used as liquor cabinets.

vintage ice box

vintage ice box

As most things do, the ice box came to pass when electric refrigerators were introduced to the general public.

vintage ice box

No more lugging big chunks of ice around!

According to Wikipedia:

In 1834, the first working vapor-compression refrigeration system was built. In 1913, refrigerators for home use were invented. In 1923 Frigidaire introduced the first self-contained unit.

There’s not one clear inventor of the modern refrigerator. Interestingly, it was mostly auto companies that created early refrigerator models. Frigidaire was actually owned by General Motors in the early days.

vintage ice box

According to Pacific Standard magazine, only eight percent of American households had a refrigerator in the early 1930s. But a mere decade later in the 1940s, almost 45 percent of American homes had retired their old ice boxes and installed a refrigerator.

Long gone are the days of cutting and lugging big “cakes” of ice around.

vintage ice box

Look how happy she looks showing off her new, electric, fully stocked refrigerator!

But still, there is a nostalgic allure about these primitive pieces.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.marthastewart.com/1537798/refrigerator-history-explained

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_trade

https://www.mrappliance.ca/blog/2019/july/what-is-an-icebox-a-history-lesson

~~~

One thought on “Antique Ice Boxes And Vintage Fridges

Add yours

What ya thinking? Leave a comment!

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: