From barbeque parties to long road trips, everything loses its charm when you don’t have some ice to chill and enjoy. Ice has been used for centuries for food preservation and storage. It was also used by ancient civilizations to keep drinks cooler. But ice was once a rare food item only available to the wealthy. Let’s explore the journey of ice to learn how ice made its way from being a treat for the rich to a basic food item in every household in the US.
Let’s Break the Ice!
Have a glance at the history of ice making.
Egyptians and Indians used the rapid evaporation technique to turn water into ice. In 400 BC, Persians developed ice pits, or Yakhchāls (“Yakh” meaning ice and “Chāl” meaning pit), to store ice. These ice pits were dome-shaped structures up to two stories tall and occupied an equal subterranean space. The underground space was used to store ice and other food items. It kept the storage cool using airflow for evaporative cooling.
Ice Houses in Europe
After several centuries, the Greeks and Romans started developing ice houses built with wood and tightly packed straws. They filled the ice houses with ice and snow gathered during the winters (often shipped from mountains). The use of these ice houses, however, came to a halt when the Roman Empire crumbled.
Revival by the Italians
The use of ice was brought back by the Italians in the 16th century, and the same tradition paved its way into France. Henry III extravagantly used ice and displayed heaps of snow on the tables for guests. Back then, ice was a symbol of excessive luxury for other Europeans.
Thomas Jefferson’s Ice House
The trend of using ice in drinks and beverages even extended to the new US when Thomas Jefferson learned about ice houses when traveling through Europe and constructed an ice house in Monticello.
Significant Innovations | When Ice Became Affordable
One of the first people to capitalize on the growing increasing demand for ice was Fredric Tudor, also known as “The Ice King.” Fredric Tudor developed safe ways to produce ice, established ice shipping routes across the world, and developed his ice shipping business from scratch.
In the meantime, a US doctor, John Gorrie, developed a design for ice-making machines. While the mechanical refrigeration machine was primarily engineered to keep malaria and fever patients cool, he also marketed it as an appliance for cooling cocktails and wines during an outdoor celebration on Bastille Day. The National Museum of American History also features Gorrie’s innovative invention.
This invention created a wave in the ice-making industry, and several engineers across the world acquired patents for designing successful ice machines.
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