This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
NOT very many years ago, there was exhibited in a window in the Strand, London, a huge plate, apparently of ice; a little water was in the plate around a remarkably transparent piece of glass, and on the mass was written "Ice for sale." No shop in busy London attracted more attention or had more stationary gazers: we heard of this piece of "ice" in all parts of the island, including Scotland; for so lately as 1845 few English people had handled ice in summer, and not one of them had stopped to reflect that a piece such as they supposed they had seen would not keep from day to day as the representative glass had done.
Steamships were then a novelty, but had commenced to bring a few tropical fruits to England, and oranges from Portugal and Spain. Dining one day with a literary gentleman, he descanted largely on the improved lot of people of moderate incomes, and was proud that he could treat his friends to a pine-apple and some ice, luxuries heretofore confined to the wealthy.
In Switzerland, in the same year, after a weary tramp among the hills and valleys, our party approached a glacier in the valley of Grindel-wald; but night coming on we took up our quarters in a new hostelry, where there was evidence of a strong desire to please. We asked for iced milk, and that it might be brought quickly. The ready "yes" gave promise of the veritable article; but time flew slowly, and there was neither ice nor milk. After an hour of impatience the bell was answered, and another favorable response; but this too, failing of results, the party agreed to go and see what was the matter, - and after much questioning it came out that a maid had gone to the pasture pretty high up the mountain, and a man had taken a bucket and gone to the glacier for the ice, both of which made their appearance as we were retiring, at eleven o'clock.
These reminiscences show that Europe has only lately waked up to the importance of employing ice in summer. In Paris, they produce the article artificially, and they have a very pretty way of freezing drinking-water in a glass bottle. You send an empty bottle to the manufactory and they give you another thus congealed for a penny or two; it melts about as rapidly as you require it, and is most valuable in that warm city during summer. They also make and sell solid blocks of ice, but at a high price. With their railroads, and the glaciers of Switzerland, Paris and other continental cities might be supplied with this luxury at a cheap rate. Ice creams are a very dear article in both London and Paris, being from twice to four times the price of New York or Philadelphia. In Havana, ice has become an indispensable article; they contrive to give delicious ice-waters from the various fine fruits of the island, at moderate charges. In the East Indies, and indeed, in all wealthy tropical countries, ice supplied from America is a necessity; once introduced, no moderately high price is sufficient to exclude it; and its absence, from any unforeseen cause, creates a severe panic.
The great improvements of building ice-houses in our own climate, consist in placing the food and fruit room below the mass, and in thoroughly draining off the water as it melts.
The present season, New York and Philadelphia, and of course, the more southern cities, have been more or less dependent on the Bostouians; but what, we would ask, is to prevent another advance in the ice trade among us? there is scarcely any regular investment that would pay better than laying in during a cold winter, enough for two seasons, - and with care there is no difficulty in doing this. There would be some loss necessarily by melting, but every one of any experience will remember that not unfre-quently, at the close of the warm season, their ice-house has presented the appearance of sufficient almost for another summer. We fully believe it to be within the scope of commercial, and of course of private advantage, to preserve ice for two seasons; the hint may be taken advantage of by somebody who can afford to lay out of a small capital for the prospect of a larger profit. If the winter that it was kept over proved to be a cold one and others had ice as usual, our speculator on probabilities would still have his crop for sale, losing only the interest and a slight decrease of bulk; whereas, in case of a deficiency, his profits would be immense.
In private families two houses would be advantageous for this purpose, the one to be kept over, not being opened till actually wanted; and we are not sure but that in most cases two houses thus treated are better than one.
Mr. Clay, in one of his speeches, when complimenting our eastern friends for their industry, remarked that they found on their soil nothing to export but granite and ice - " absolutely nothing but granite and ice," and yet see their prosperity. There are yet plenty of openings in the ice trade for enterprising men.