IMG_0066What a wonderful addition for Betsy’s house! The Betsy-Tacy Society recently received a vintage icebox that is now on display in Betsy’s kitchen. The icebox is on loan from a former BTS board member.

“Now we mustn’t put in much of any one thing,” Betsy warned. “Or else there won’t be room. For we’re going to put in some of every thing, absolutely everything there is. What shall we put in first?” she asked. She had never cooked before, and she didn’t know how to begin. “Bacon grease would be good,” answered Tib. “Lots of things begin with bacon grease.” “Bacon grease then,” said Betsy. Tib went to the ice box and got a spoonful of bacon grease. It melted in the pan. Quote from Betsy, Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace

Iceboxes date back to the mid-19th century and were used through the 1930s when electricity and refrigerators were introduced into the home. The Hart and Kenney families most likely had ice delivered to their homes by the Mankato Ice Company. The ice company, owned by C.W. Miller, had its main ice-storage house located on Owatonna Street in West Mankato. They filled their buildings each winter with ice cut from the Blue Earth River, Indian and Spring Lakes. Nature purified the water as it froze, forcing dirt and bacteria into the water below. It was this crystal clear ice that was harvested in the winter.

The ice harvest took place in January each year. Townspeople and farmers were hired to prepare the ice field, cutting the big 300 to 400-pound cakes, elevating them out of the river onto sleighs to be hauled to the ice storage houses. There the cakes were placed layer upon layer and then covered with sawdust. In the summer the sawdust was removed from the “sleeping” ice and moved onto the delivery wagons. The icehouse would remain cool all summer where the ice still remained covered by sawdust.

The ice man and his horse-drawn ice wagon made regular door-to-door deliveries of block ice for their customers’ iceboxes.  Some homes had small doors that opened to the icebox from the back porch. The iceman brought the block of ice and inserted it into the icebox through this door. On hot summer days children eagerly awaited the arrival of the iceman, hoping that when he cut the cake of ice to fit their mother’s icebox a few big sparkling chips would be left on the wagon for them to enjoy. Can’t you imagine Betsy, Tacy and their friends enjoying ice chips from the ice wagon on a hot summer day?