Ice harvesting tools

Photo Bethany McMahon

Ice harvesting tools exhibit

Ice harvesting was common on lakes, ponds, and rivers in the northern part of the country throughout the 19th century and up into the 1940s. Many people today still remember that grandma always called the refrigerator the “ice box”. The increasing popularity of electric refrigerators during the 1930s finally put ice saws, chisels, tongs, and horse-drawn ice plows in back corners of barns never to be used again.

On Sawmill pond in Ledyard, like many other small ponds and lakes in New England, ice was harvested by local farmers and stored in an ice house to be used through the hot weather of spring, summer, and fall.

The ice harvesting tools at the Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill were used by the Allyn family in Ledyard to harvest ice on Sawmill pond; the tools were donated by Frederic B. Allyn, Sr. in the 1970s when the mill was restored.

Dairyman's Ice King plow

A favorite ice harvesting tool at the the Ledyard mill is the ice plow. The Gifford-Wood Company horse-drawn Ice King Plow was a low-cost ice plow manufactured in Hudson, NY from about 1900-1928 and sold for small farm ice harvesting.

"The plow is placed on the market at less than half the price of the company's regular ones in response to a demand for a first-class fast cutting plow at a low price, for the use of dairymen, butchers and farmers who cut a limited quantity of ice."

The Ice King was used for both marking a grid and deepening the marked grooves.

The Ice King has a guide for laying out a grid for 22-inch wide ice cakes. The guide fits into the previously cut groove to guide the plow to score a new parallel line; it’s a “swing guide” – the guide is hinged to be flipped over the cutting teeth and used on either the left or right side.

After the entire grid is scored, the guide is removed and individual grooves deepened with multiple passes. “…in four runs a groove is plowed deep enough to break 12 or 14 inch ice.”

The 8-inch Ice King Plow like the one in the Ledyard Up-down Sawmill collection had a catalog price of $25 in 1912.

The Iron Age Jan. 2, 1896, v. 57 (1), p. 119Gifford-Wood Company. How to harvest ice. 1912, p. 100.

Ice harvesting tools exhibit