Ice cutting

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Icecutters in Toronto, Canada, 1890s
1919 filmreel of ice-harvesting in Pennsylvania, USA (silent)

Ice cutting was a winter occupation of icemen whose task it was to collect surface ice from lakes and rivers for storage in ice houses and sale as a pre-refrigeration cooling method. Kept insulated, the ice was preserved for all-year delivery to residential and commercial customers with ice boxes for cold food storage.

Ice harvesting generally involved waiting until approximately a foot of ice had built up on the water surface in the winter. The ice would then be cut with either a handsaw or a powered saw blade into long continuous strips and then cut into large individual blocks for transport by wagon back to the icehouse.[1] Because snow on top of the ice slows freezing, it could be scraped off and piled in windrows. Alternatively, if the temperature is cold enough, a snowy surface could be flooded to produce a thicker layer of ice.[2] A large operation would have a crew of 75 and cut 1500 tons daily.[3]

This occupation generally became obsolete with the development of mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning technology.[4]

Ice cutting is still in use today for ice and snow sculpture events. A swing saw is used to get ice out of a river for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival each year. A swing saw is also used to cut ice out from the frozen surface of the Songhua River.[5] Many Ice sculptures are made from the ice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, J. C. (1984) America's Icemen: An Illustrative History of the United States Natural Ice Industry 1665-1925. Jobeco Books, Humble, Texas. ISBN 978-0-9607572-1-3
  2. ^ Bowen, John T (1928). "Harvesting and Storing Ice on the Farm". Farmer's Bulletin: 6–8. Retrieved 2014-05-25. 
  3. ^ Ward, Tom (1975). Cowtown : an album of early Calgary. Calgary: City of Calgary Electric System, McClelland and Stewart West. p. 192. ISBN 0-7712-1012-4. 
  4. ^ Inspection of Ice. Ice and Refrigeration Illustrated, Southern Ice Exchange. 1896. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  5. ^ AFP (13 November 2008). "Ice is money in China's coldest city". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 December 2009. 

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