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SUMMER, 1965
In Wisconsin the primary reason for the rise of a large-scale harvesting and shipping of natural ice was the expansion of the brew¬ ing and packing industries in Milwaukee and Chicago. The development of a large beer- drinking public, and the transfer of popular preference from heavier and more alcoholic malt liquors to lighter and more effervescent beers, at once helped to make Milwaukee famous and created an important demand for ice. In the early 1880's, for example, Milwau¬ kee breweries were storing 335,000 tons of ice for use in their operations. The largest—the Best Brewing Company—was estimated to have used 21,000 tons in 1879 and 60,000 tons in 1880. In the absence of mechanical cooling, ice in these quantities was required in the manufacturing of light or lager beers and in the maintenance of low temperatures during the aging process.^ It was also indispensable in preserving these beers, unless pasteurized, in transit and in packing the coils which cooled the beverages to the temperature popular with Americans, already regarded as curious in Europe for their preference for iced drinks.
Even more significant to the increase in the harvesting of Wisconsin ice and its ship¬ ment to industrial cities and transportation centers was the growth of the great meat¬ packing firms of Chicago and, to a lesser ex¬ tent, of Milwaukee. The development of an efficient refrigerated railroad car was a long, haphazard, and murky process, but the suc¬ cess of Gustavus Swift, the Chicago packer, in devising a practical system for shipping re¬ frigerated meat by rail rapidly brought about the wide use of fresh meats. The meat was now processed in Chicago and kept unspoiled in storage, during shipment, and while await¬ ing sale to the consumer by ice refrigeration. Swift's success was quickly imitated by Ar¬ mour and other meat packers."
To keep the new cars profitably on the move and to support the facilities that made them successful, Swift and Armour—especially Ar¬ mour—turned to the transportation to Eastern and Midwestern markets of out-of-season fruit and vegetables of the South and West. Again, of course, refrigeration was necessary, as it was late in the 1880's when the Illinois Cen¬ tral began to ship Jamaican and Central Amer¬ ican bananas up the Mississippi Valley from New Orleans. By 1900 the line was dispatch¬ ing about 8,000 cars a year to the north. The result of the introduction of these new, re¬ frigerated foods was the appearance in nu¬ merous railroad-division towns throughout the country of large, squat ice-houses between the tracks, often painted gray for Swift, yellow for Armour, and eventually a railroad red. Filled in winter from local or remote sources, they were kept busy during the summer pro¬ viding crushed ice and salt for meat cars, chunk ice for fruits and vegetables, and room for the storing of additional ice shipped in from the great supply houses on the northern lakes.*
Outside the deep South, natural ice was used for many of these services until as late as World War I. Mechanical refrigeration and the production of artificial ice were too ex¬ pensive to be used unless the cost of trans¬ porting natural ice was great. In the upper Midwest, where natural ice was both cheap and abundant, the great cold-storage plants of the Chicago packers continued into the 1890's to be really immense ice-houses with storage appendixes; and the breweries of both Mil¬ waukee and Chicago continued to rely for their operations on the supplies of natural ice stored in their ice-houses. Even when mechanical cooling did become possible, easy and economic production of artificial ice re¬ mained a different and difficult problem. The
-Ice Trade Journal, VII:2 (March, 1883); ibid., Ill: 2 (January, 1879) ; Stanley Baron, Brewed in America: A History of Beer and Ale in the United States (Boston, 1962), 233-234; Thomas C. Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company (New York, 1948), 77-78.
'Bessie L. Pierce, A History of Chicago (New York, 1957), 111:119-120; Louis F. Swift, The Yankee of the Yards (Chicago, 1927), 185-191; Charles   E.   Russell,   Greatest   Trust   in   the   World
(New York, 1905), 292; L. D. H. Weld, "Private Freight Cars and American Railways," in Studies in History, Economics, and Public Law, XXXI:1 (Co¬ lumbia University, 1908), 11-40; Ice and Refrigera¬ tion, 1:133 (September, 1891).
*Weld, loc. cit., 179; Russell, op. cit., 297-299; Carlton J. Corliss, Main Line of Middle America (New York, 1950), 407; Ice and Refrigeration, III: 199 (September, 1892), VII: 273 (April, 1895), and XIV:18-20  (January, 1898).
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Wisconsin magazine of history: Volume 48, number 4, summer, 1965

91 total pages