Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sandusky's "Crystal Blue, Clear as Glass Ice"

Local Ice Dealers Loading Blocks Directly from the Ice Fields
Ernst Niebergall ca. 1911/1912
Charles E. Frohman Collection
Sandusky, Ohio, was the largest ice producer west of New York City during the latter half of the 19th century. Noted for its solid, "crystal blue, clear as glass" ice, the city became known as the "Ice Capital of the Great Lakes." Icemen eagerly watched the waters of Lake Erie until they froze to a depth of 8 to 16 inches. For as long as "good ice makin' weather" held, Sanduskians endured ten-hour days of harsh winds and frigid temperatures for a daily wage of $2.

In the picture above, taken during the winter of 1911 or 1912, many local dealers from Sandusky and neighboring towns filled their orders by loading their delivery wagons directly from the ice fields.

Sanduskians harvested 400,000 tons of ice each winter. The greater portion of the harvest was stored in some fifty sheds that dotted Lake Erie's shoreline. Sandusky provided most of Ohio's cities with ice, including 90 percent of the ice consumed by the city of Cleveland. According to the local paper, Sandusky's "crystal quality put the murky, sewer-tainted" Cleveland ice to shame. Most of the ice was shipped across the lake as needed from a string of icehouses located on Put-In-Bay's Peach Point.

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