Friday, July 25, 2014

Word of the Day -- Icebox



An icebox (also called a cold closet) is a compact non-mechanical refrigerator which was a common kitchen appliance before the development of safe powered refrigeration devices.

Iceboxes had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed. A large block of ice was held in a tray or compartment near the top of the box. Cold air circulated down and around storage compartments in the lower section. Some finer models had spigots for draining ice water from a catch pan or holding tank. In cheaper models a drip pan was placed under the box and had to be emptied at least daily. The user had to replenish the melted ice, normally by obtaining new ice from an iceman.

Commonly iceboxes were made of wood, most probably for ease of construction, insulation, and aesthetics: many were handsome pieces of furniture.

Iceboxes date back to the days of ice harvesting, which had hit an industrial high that ran from the mid-19th century to the 1930s, when the refrigerator was introduced into the home. Most municipally consumed ice was harvested in winter from snow-packed areas or frozen lakes, stored in ice houses, and delivered domestically as iceboxes became more common.

With widespread electrification and safer refrigerants, mechanical refrigeration in the home became possible. However, because of the prevalence of the icebox in recent human history, the name "icebox" is still used colloquially for the modern home refrigerator by older persons in some regions.

The horse-drawn ice wagon and the daily occupation of the iceman, who made regular door-to-door deliveries of block ice, was as much a social institution as the milk man.

Apartment buildings had small doors that opened to the ice box from the back porch. The ice man would bring the block of ice and insert it into the ice box through this door. Ice was delivered on a regular basis to these buildings and the people would pay for the ice. Children would go on the ice wagon and take chips of fallen ice as treats during the summer.

Post Script: Steve never refers to his refrigerator as a refrigerator, but always an ice box.

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