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A Slice of Ice: 1906

A Slice of Ice: 1906

Woburn, Mass., circa 1906. "Ice harvesting on Horn Pond -- baring off the floats." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Tough job for the guy on the other end of the saw!

I got to do this on a very small scale in the early 70's on a lake in NE Minnesota. Other than using a tractor instead of horses, we did it pretty much the way it was done in Finland. It was early March when the ice was the thickest, about 3 feet deep.

The ice was first scored and then sawed with an ice saw. The standing joke was that the saw looked like an old bow saw for logging, and it was a real tough job for the guy on the other end of the saw. I got to work the saw, it went through about 6 inches per stroke.

The old timers had it down perfect to push down on the ice pieces with the tongs and pull them out when they popped back up. From there it went on a sled behind the tractor and off to shore. I honestly don't remember what they did with it then or why they were harvesting the ice.

It was very cold, very wet work even with the late winter sun out.

Still to be seen..

The last two Januarys, we have attended a demonstration of ice harvesting in Tobyhanna, PA. Cold, but one does get a feeling (on a very small scale) of the work involved. It is hard to imagine the scale of the industry around 1900. And remember the ice also fed the railroad refrigerator cars.

Close call

Sometime in the 1930's my wife's father and grandfather were cutting ice on the Missouri river by Bismarck, ND. When they finished cutting at the end of one day they left a "ice bridge" uncut out to the area they were going to work in the next day. Some idiot came along after they left and cut a block out of the ice bridge. It snowed overnight and covered the ice and open spot. My future father-in-law stepped into it and went down. Just as the current was pulling him under the ice, his father, in the last split second, reached down and managed to grab the collar of his coat. It's a sobering thought that if he had missed, my wife and all of her siblings, plus all of the future generations would not exist.

Hard work

And here I thought filling up the ice cube tray was a pain.

More on ice harvesting

Interesting stories behind all this here.

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