Before the revolution of home appliances introduced a refrigerator into as an essential part of life, the natural ice business was one of the ten largest industries in the country and the Knowlton Ice Museum of North America remembers this once booming market with a huge collection of tools of the trade.
Founded in 1987 by Norman Knowlton, the collection contains all manner of items which were once ubiquitous in the wide-spread business of selling ice. Knowlton himself started his own ice company in the 1960’s out of his garage. A milk delivery man, Knowlton realized that his dairy services were becoming obsolete thanks to the expansion of neighborhood grocers, so he began selling ice he would harvest from the frozen lakes and ponds around his home. He continued to grow his frozen water business over the next 38 years until it was profitable enough to sell. However even without his company, Knowlton’s love of the history of the ice business went unabated and he was able to start his museum.
The collection contains over 5,000 items across 10,000-square feet of space dedicated solely to frozen commerce. There are larger items such as old horse-drawn delivery carts and later vintage delivery trucks, as well as more minute items such as saws, pikes, and picks that were used to carve out the blocks and handle them.
While modern conveniences have largely made the ice industry less imperative than it once was, but thanks to Knowlton’s museum, the vital history of ice in America will not be forgotten.