Hauling ice for the economy

Residents of Jamestown were going to be using imported ice in 1933.

Imported all the way from Spiritwood Lake that is.

Ice had been harvested from the James River right in Jamestown for years. However, low water on the river was causing the ice to contain mud and algae. While the principle use of the ice was cooling the residential ice box back in the days before refrigerators the homeowner would occasionally chip off a piece for drinks.

This was just after prohibition ended so I’m sure some ice was finding its way into cocktails.

Refrigerators didn’t become common until after World War II. There were models available as early as the 1920s but they had some disadvantages. The chemicals used as coolant could cause blindness or even burst into flames if they leaked from the fridge.

And electrical service wasn’t as stable as it is now so your fridge probably would only work part of the time under the best of circumstances.

So in the 1930s most people in Jamestown still relied on an ice box to keep their food and drinks cool. And they relied on the Jamestown Ice Company for the ice to keep the ice box cool.

The company harvested 8 million pounds of ice from Spiritwood Lake during the winter of 1932 to 1933. The ice on the lake was said to be about 17 inches thick and a crew of eight men employed by the ice company cut the ice into blocks. Farmers with teams of horses were hired to pull the blocks out of the lake and to the shore.

The Jamestown Ice Company also hired about 50 other farmers with about 30 trucks to haul the ice from Spiritwood Lake to Jamestown. Those drivers had to be busy. If the trucks of the 1930s could haul 1,000 lbs. per trip they had to make 8,000 trips from Spiritwood to Jamestown.

Even if the trucks could haul a ton it would still take 4,000 trips to haul the ice to town.

But what I found interesting about this incident is the reason the ice company gave for using Spiritwood Lake ice rather than James River.

“It will cost several thousand more,” said E.S. Cronin, manager of Jamestown Ice. “But it will give Jamestown an unexcelled supply of ice and it will provide work for additional men.”

The depressed economy of the 1930s is legendary. I’m sure it was tempting for the Jamestown Ice Company to sacrifice quality and save costs. Instead they took pride in their product and in the fact they provided work for dozens of men in the area.

It is too bad modern refrigerators took over the food cooling industry in the decades that followed. We could use more companies like Jamestown Ice Company.