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Free Ice: 1900

Free Ice: 1900

Circa 1900. "Heat wave. Free ice in New York." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by Byron for the Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Hey, Austin tipster

We NY/NJ SMSAers feel the same way about you guys when your highways are shut down after 4 or 5 inches of snow. We laugh at your puny "frozen precipitation levels" that seem to cause such chaos!

Have you ever been on the Lower East Side, and seen these turn-of-the-19th-century former tenement neighborhoods? They are still standing: five- and six-floor walk-ups, built with no help from Mr Otis, crowded together on narrow streets.

Even today, Austin's population density of 2600 people per square mile is less than 1/10th of New York City's (26,100). Crowding ten times as many people into every square mile raises the ambient temperature of NYC exponentially. When the weather report says "90" in a town of crowded, narrow streets with ten times as many people, it is a medical emergency.

Be grateful that, in your hometown, such temperatures make you reach for a sweater. It's not a sign of how much tougher Texans are in comparison to New Yorkers. It means that you are fortunate to live where the historical development patterns have provided you an environment where weather extremes aren't so dangerous to human health.

Hot mama

So I can see why they had the long pants, skirts and hats, but couldn't she have left the shawl off?

Most of these people want Gordon Park!

As in the last picture.

Even in these Victorian times you can see signs of the heat, the cop wiping his brow, most men in the derbies have them way back on their head to let the heat out, and the straw hat man doesn't because they let heat out, just as the Mexican and South East Asian farmers learned from history.

I loved the snow cone comment, probably very right, why give the melting ice away if you can sell it!


I love reading about the New York heat waves with temperature in the 90s or even 101 (!). If it was in the 90s in Austin, we'd all be wearing parkas.

The Long Hot Summer

Looks like the cop has had a long day. As hot has his uniform is, my hubby now has to wear pretty much all that, except in polyester and with an extra 35 pounds of equipment, plus a bullet proof vest. It's been hovering around or at 100 lately here in Maryland, and his vest doesn't have time to dry out from sweat one day before he puts it on the next. So next time you see a cop sitting in his car with the AC on on a hot day, think of that guy up there! He could use a little break! (I hope he got hold of some ice chunks.)

Poor timing

How about some lovely pictures of deep snow, ice-covered lakes, or something to make us feel cooler in today's hot weather?

Cool Lid

Only a straw hat would make sense, or maybe one of these.


A few years ago I bought a straw hat and It seems to actually make you feel cooler on a hot day.

Barefoot tykes

That sidewalk had to be hot!

The Iceman (and Milkman) Cometh

Back in the 1940's in Newburgh NY in the midst of a summer heat wave, neighborhood kids would raid the back of the open ice delivery truck while the iceman would be tonging a block of ice to home ice boxes. Another source for kids, of small chunks of ice, was in milk delivery trucks while the milkman was delivering his wares.

Sure this isn't Japan?

The policeman looks like he's wearing white gloves. That would suck on a hot day like it appears to be in the picture.

Weather's nice here in Monterey.

It might have gotten to 65 here today.

Hats Year Round

Up until the 1950's or so, you will notice that headgear was always part of the dress code. My dad wore a hat most of the year. It had to be hot and uncomfortable.

Staten Island Ferry

When my parents married in New York, in 1953, they stayed with a friend in Harlem. It was so hot and a neighbour was having a rent party so my parents took the Staten Island ferry back and forth all night long. Cool and quiet, compared to their friends' apartment.

I lived on City Island, in the Bronx, for two years and with no air-conditioning, and the ceiling fans not being up to the job, it was like trying to sleep in pea soup.

Trying To Imagine...

what NYC must have smelled like with all of those sweating people and piles of horse manure in the streets makes me not want to go back in time to experience what is going on in the photo. This is a first in all my time as a Shorpy fan.

Fishy, indeed!

We are experiencing a real heat wave in New York today. I don't for a minute believe that the photo was taken in a temperature that comes close to our 100+

Look at the barefoot boys on that sidewalk -- there's your proof.

I got news for yah

Free Ice? That's nothing special. Every February there is tons if it in New York. You just need to plan ahead a little.

More than just comfort

I would bet that most of these people are not going to use this ice for chilling their drinks. They're probably going to use it to keep their food from spoiling.
One thing about the present day is we continually go from hot to air conditioned environments during a heat wave. In New York, no matter how cold it gets outside, the subway cars are usually cooled to the point of refrigeration. This keeps our bodies from becoming acclimated to the temps. These folks have been in the heat and have become somewhat adjusted. The clothes they wear are probably all cotton or linen, both of which have the ability to wick the sweat away and help cool the body. I'm sure they're pretty miserable, but coping.

Nostalgic and Vintage

I absolutely love old photographs, the older the better. You get to experience people, places and things frozen in time.

Something's Fishy

I can't believe all their icemakers went out at once.They need to call the super and complain.

Great Timing

My friends back East say it brutally hot just now, Hudson Valley included.

You'd get a line for free ice right now

With temperatures hitting 101 degrees, in the middle of a l-o-o-ng week of 95+, you'll get plenty of people willing to stand in line for bags of free ice.

Ice cubes in a bowl + fan = poor man's air conditioning.

Thanks, Dave, for reminding us that some things never change, like NYC heat waves in the summertime. The children who grew up standing in those lines supported the construction of municipal swimming pools during the New Deal. They remembered!

Melting Pot

Temperatures in Manhattan will probably go over 100 degrees today. It has been in the high 90s for the last few days and will be in or around the 100 degree mark for the rest of the week. There will be no free ice and the local utility, Con Ed, has started cutting back on the power so the air conditioners are not performing to spec. I think I'll go to a movie today, their sign says they're 20 degrees cooler inside. Incidentally, movie theatre air conditioning goes back to 1925 when Dr. Willis Carrier cooled the new Rivoli Theatre on Broadway.

Take it off

They sure are wearing a lot of clothes for a heat wave. I'd lose the jackets and long sleeves.

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