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Ice Box
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Title: Ice Box
Identifier: 979.6.31
Donor: Geoffrey Sayers
Item Date: 1868-1900
Creation Date: 2011
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: An ice box with two small upper doors and two lower doors. Lower doors have porcelain knobs and a makers plate on front which reads 'Arctic Refridgerator' manufactured by 'Withrow and Hillocks, Toronto Ont.' The upper chamber has a tin lining on the inside of doors and on the back wall with slotted shelf and end panels. Lower chamber has one slotted shelf.

The ice box, or the domestic refrigerator, became popular in the United States beginning in the 1830s. Cooled with ice, people could preserve meat and produce for longer periods of time. Generally made of wood (oak), the ice compartment was mostly lined with zinc or slate, and was surrounded by insulating materials such as cork or flax straw. By the 1850s, improvements in design with increased air circulation helped to prolong the use of ice.
The Arctic Refridgerator was manufactured by Withrow and Hillocks, Toronto, Ontario. Withrow and Hillock (John J. Withrow & John Hillocks) appears in the City of Toronto Directories: 1868-9 - Withrow & Hillock 59 & 61 Adelaide Street West; 1873 - 135 George Street E. Lumber, door sash & blind manufacturers; 1884 - 114 & 116 Queen St. East Refridgerator Manufacturers; 1890 - 128-130 Queen St. E. Planing Mill and manufacturers of Arctic Refridgerators; 1900 - no listing. Descriptions in period publications identifies the ice box at Benares as being the #3 Family Refridgerator with a price of $22.00.

Ontario’s commercial ice industry developed in the mid-nineteenth century by entrepreneurs interested in harvesting ice for their own use. Cutting and collecting natural ice was a very labour intensive endeavour requiring special tools. The work began by scraping the snow off the ice and planing rough surfaces. Lack of space for ice storage initiated commercial development of ice harvesting such as at Toronto and Port Credit.
Although Arthur Harris (1843-1932) did not harvest the ice himself, he transported the ice from the Port Credit River for the ice box at Benares, which was always located in the summer kitchen. Commercial harvesters would cut and load the ice onto wagons on sleighs. One-hundred loads were pulled every day, each load being made ready in three minutes. Amy Scott ‘The Coldest Crop: Ice Harvesting in 19th and 20th Century Ontario’, The Old Toronto Advocate_ Issue 5 (Toronto, Winter 2004), 1-4; Verna Mae Weeks Port Credit: A Glimpse of Other Days (Mississauga: Verna Mae Weeks, 1995), 59.
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