The Impact And Legacy Of The Ice Chest Box

- Apr 19, 2020-

As the techniques for food preservation steadily improved, 

prices decreased and food became more readily available.

As more households adopted the icebox, the overall quality and freshness of this food were also improved. 

Iceboxes meant that people were able to go the market less and could more safely store leftovers. 

All of this contributed to the improvement of the population's health by increasing 

the fresh food readily able to be consumed and the overall safety of that food.

However, with metropolitan growth, 

many sources of natural ice became contaminated from industrial pollution or sewer runoff. 

Thanks to the icebox manufacturing industry’s efforts, a new innovative idea in cooling came about: air circulation. 

The idea for air circulation in refrigeration systems stems back to John Schooley, 

who wrote about his process in the 1856 Scientific American, a popular science magazine. 

Schooley described the process as 

“Combining an ice receptacle with the interior of a refrigerator… 

continuous circulation of the air shall be kept up through the ice in said 

receptacle and through the interior of the refrigerator… 

so that the circulation air shall deposit its moisture on the ice every time it passes through it, 

and be dried and cooled.”  

This idea of air circulation and could lead to the eventual invention of the mechanical, 

gas-driven refrigerators. As these early mechanical refrigerators became available, 

they were installed as large industrial plants producing ice for home delivery.

By the early 1930s, mechanical ice machines gradually began to rise over the ice harvesting industry 

thanks to its ability to produce clean, sanitary ice independently and year-round. 

Over time, as the mechanical ice machines became 

“smaller, cheaper, and more efficient”, they easily replaced the hassle of getting ice from a source. 

For example, the De La Vergne Refrigerating Machine Company of New York, New York, 

could produce up to 220 tons of ice in a single day from a single machine. 

With widespread electrification and safer refrigerants, mechanical refrigeration in the home became possible. 

With the development of the chlorofluorocarbons 

(along with the succeeding hydrochlorofluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons), 

that came to replace the use of toxic ammonia gas, 

the refrigerator replaced the icebox, though icebox is still sometimes used to refer to mechanical refrigerators.


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