In keeping with our “wow, it’s hot outside theme” – let’s dig into the history of ice. While we may take it for granted today, in the not so distant past, ice was a novelty. In 1805, Frederic Tudor of Boston came up with the idea to sell ice and ship it nationally and ultimately, internationally.

Advertisement, Peabody Directory, 1897

Beginning in the early 1800s, on a much smaller scale, New England farmers “harvested” ice off of local ponds and lakes. Ice was considered just like any other crop. The ice had to be cultivated under the right conditions and be at least 8″ thick to harvest. After the layers of frozen water built up, horse drawn plows carefully scraped snow off the surface. The harvester “grooved” the ice, or created a grid pattern, planed the ice until flat and smooth, sawed the ice into squares and moved the blocks to a nearby ice house.

Peabody’s multiple ponds were ideal for ice harvesting, especially Brown’s and Spring Ponds. The Newhall family started their ice business in 1871 and they stored 3,000 to 4,000 tons of ice each season. Ice delivery was gradually phased out as modern refrigerators became more common. Do you have memories of getting ice delivered? We’d love to hear them.

Salem, Beverly, Danvers and Peabody – Their Respective Businesses and Points of Interest1893
Billhead for Robert P. Brown’s ice business, November 14, 1912
Placard for Peabody’s E.F. Holleran Ice Co., circa 1930
Note that each side of the placard has a number; this shows that their ice comes in 15, 20, 25 or 30 pound increments.
You would position the card in your window so the ice delivery person would know how much you needed.

Peabody Historical Society & Museum – Library and Archives

Virtual Presentation by Dr. Andrew Robichaud on his upcoming book “On Ice: Transformations in American Life”, presented by the Hanford Mills Museum.