Refrigerator
Refrigerator

Ice famine

An ice famine was a scarcity of commercial ice, usually during the hot summer months, common before the widespread use of the refrigerator. It often resulted in the widespread spoilage of food and medicines, and in some instances in death from heat stroke.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, ice was at a very high demand in America. A man named Frederic Tudor, dubbed the Ice King, brought forth a whole industry for ice. Ice was a necessity for many businesses who sold food and homes who hoped to preserve their food because the refrigerator and freezer were not yet invented. The people’s only choices were commercial and residential ice boxes that needed to be replenished every time there was a drop in temperature. Tudor saw the importance and the possibly high demand for ice which he immediately capitalized on. He started his work in Massachusetts and expanded his market over time. Once his ice had chilled the drinks and preserved the food of many Americans, it quickly became a highly desired commodity, and this commodity was supplied by ice harvesting which was done on frozen over fields and bodies of water as well as ice factories. The former provided most of the ice for the industry while the latter produced a significantly lesser amount.
Another cause, or at least threat, of ice famine was World War One. During the war, the American government needed most of the country’s supply of ammonia. Ammonia was a chemical used in ice factories that helped make the ice and also refrigerated the ice until it was ready for consumption, but Americans' need for ice was considered insignificant when the American Government wanted to go to war. The government ultimately needed the ammonia to provide soldiers with sufficient ammunition to fight the war. Since a majority of the ammonia supply was fueling war efforts, ice factories could not generate nearly enough ice to meet demand. This caused the countryside and cities, especially New York City, to have small quantities of ice and no ice at all in some areas. In order to help the American people out of the ice famine, The Department of Agriculture released plans to the public that described how to make, and effectively use, a homemade refrigeration unit.
The worries of ice famines ended in the early 1900s. At this point in time, refrigerators and air conditioners were being introduced to the market. It did not take long for people to move away from ice-reliant storage of all kinds. In 1927, General Electric became the first company to mass-produce refrigerator units that did not need ice. This ultimately ended the ice famines and the lucrativeness of ice.