Ice Museum - Port Huron, Michigan
Knowlton's Ice Museum - www.knowltonsicemuseum.org
Knowleton's Ice Museum of North America - In our modern world ice is just as common and available as cool clean water. We need only press a lever or a button and our appliances deliver ice cubed or crushed. During the 1800's and before, it wasn't anything like that easy. In fact, there wasn't anyway to make ice, it was harvested. At one time, ice harvesting was one of the ten largest industries in the United States. Michigan and the other Great Lakes states were major suppliers to the world through harvesting the ice from frozen lakes and rivers.
In the Port Huron area there were more than 30 companies harvesting and storing ice between 1871 and 1960. Ice was vital for preserving meat and vegetables in grocery stores. Hospitals depended on ice to preserved medical supplies. Commercial fishermen required it to keep the daily catch fresh. Transport companies like trucks and railroads need ice to keep harvested crops, fruits, and vegetables from spoiling. All of this ice had to be harvested in winter and stored in ice houses for use in the warm months. From the mid-1800's to the early 1900's most American homes had an ice box and depended on the regular delivery of ice by horse and wagon.
Ice was cut into huge slabs or cakes and transported to the on shore ice house for storage. One ice company harvested more than 25,000 blocks in on 18 day period, and kept on harvesting all winter long. Multiply that by dozens of ice companies and you get an idea of the demand. At one point, ice was the second largest export, only the export of cotton exceeded that of ice. While ice was a major export nationally, most of the ice cut in Michigan was shipped to the meat packing houses in Chicago.