WHEELING ICE MAKING AND ICEBOXES by John Bowman

A listing for Ice in Wheeling finds ‘Louis Niebergall Ice Co., Inc.’ 4419 Eoff Street, Wheeling, WV.  Over 100 years ago, in 1894, there was a listing: Louis Niebergall manufacturers “Pure Crystal Ice” at 4400 Water Street, Wheeling.  The Ice plant has a capacity of 25 tons per day. We know we can find Ice Making in Wheeling, but what about the past.

We may notice that some of our neighbors have window air conditioners.  What if what you were seeing was a refrigerator ‘Icebox’?  

How did one keep perishable food items meats, fruits and vegetables in early Wheeling, or for that matter, this story would fit any town, U.S.A. 

If you lived in the country, and were lucky enough to have a spring on your property, you had a springhouse built into a hillside.  Springhouses were generally cool due to the flowing spring water, and you could keep crocked food items in a water-filled tub-like area in the springhouse and you would have a dry tub-like area for vegetables.  With the outside temperature 75 degrees, inside the springhouse would keep to about 55 degrees.

Common to the West Virginia area were apple barns.  These buildings were insulated with sawdust and they cooled apples well.  This same idea was used in Ice Storage buildings, Railroad Cars, etcetera.  Much the same idea was used in the residential ‘Icebox’.

Those of means who lived in a well-appointed home would have an ‘Icebox’ refrigerator inside, in their kitchen.  And, what about this 1920s newspaper add, ‘The Master Refrigerator’.

Add from Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers Library of Congress
Window Icebox photo Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers Library of Congress

However, for the ordinary family, one had a window ‘Icebox’. We are in the 1920s, and earlier.  Twice weekly, the Iceman would deliver ice to your home placing a block of ice in your window Icebox. Homemakers shopped their grocery and meat markets almost daily, they didn’t keep much perishable foods stored, certainly they didn’t keep meat or anything frozen.  This fact made the need for grocery stores to be convenient to these homemakers.  In Wheeling, it seemed there was a grocery store on every corner, and in the middle of the block and then some.  There are 345 Grocery Stores listed in Wheeling from 1820 to 1920.

What about Wheeling Ice and IceHouses and from where did you get your ice and from where did it come?

Wheeling’s earliest Ice dealer was Jacob Amick, listed in 1837.  Amick was an ice dealer with an Ice House in the Alley between Fifth and Sixth Streets.  In the wintertime, Amick cut his ice from Wheeling Creek.

Newton tells us in the “History of the Pan-Handle” 1879, “In this line of business-so essential during the summer months-our city is well provided for, and it is seldom that demand exceeds the supply.  Our supply of ice is shipped by railroad cars from Sandusky, Ohio to Wheeling and sells at from 40-50 cents per cwt., (hundredweight).  The ice procured in this section (Wheeling) is exceedingly clear and pure.  There are four ice merchants who keep wagons constantly delivering during heated terms; Robert Luke, Conrad Seibert, R. Steubenrauch and Martin Linden.”

You would want your Ice to be Clear and Pure and Clean, wouldn’t you?

In 1881, Conrad Seibert and brother, Henry C., were ice dealers at 1103 Market Street, in Wheeling and they advertised: “Our ice is selected with great care; it being cut above Bedillion’s Dam and is consequently being free of all Impurities, being located above the slaughterhouses

C. Seibert Ice Dealer from the John Bowman collection

Above the slaughterhouses, Wheeling Creek was Clear? and Pure? and Clean?

Other listings were:

The Crystal Manufactured Ice Company, in business since 1890 at 1144 Market Street has stables with twelve horses and five large ice wagons at Twenty-Ninth and Wood Streets.  The company has a contract with the Schmulbach Brewing Company to supply ice at their plant for five years.

West Virginia Coal & Ice Company at Sixteenth and Chapline Streets, established in 1894 by Robert Teasdale and joined later by George Crumbaker who had his own ice business from 1883-1890.  Six wagons deliver ice daily and it is shipped in this vicinity by the railroads.[1]  

A.M. Hamilton, wholesale and retail ice at 44 Fourteenth Street in 1901.

A.M. Hamilton Ice from the Roger Thorngate collection

In 1912, The Wheeling Ice and Storage Co., in the old Butterfield Malt House at 2224 Water Street, is the largest plant of its kind in this section of the country.  This company advertised their Ice was manufactured from ‘Hygeia Ice’ From Hygeia Distilled Water. “Guaranteed Absolutely Pure and More Lasting Than Natural Ice.  Wow! You can’t beat that.

Wheeling Ice & Storage Co. from the Roger Thorngate collection

And Others listed were:

The Central Ice & Storage Co. of Wheeling. East End Ice & Storage Co., ice manufacturers at Sixteenth and McColloch Streets in 1919. Paul O. Reymann Co., manufacturer of ice at the east end of Seventeenth Street in 1919. Louis Niebergall, since 1894 manufacturers “Pure Crystal Ice” at 4400 Water Street.

When were homes commonly furnished with electric refrigerators?

In 1923, a building firm had this newspaper advertisement: “A Pretty Bungalow For City or Farm” suggested in their specifications, “The kitchen is 11 feet by 11 feet and has three windows, insuring fine light.  It has a windowed pantry and space should be left under the pantry window for outside Icing of the Icebox.

In 1935, Westinghouse advertised their refrigerators with this add,

“Seriously…you can’t depend on Nature for refrigeration, regardless the season.  Back-porch icebox . . . window box or cellar … no matter how you try to make the weather preserve your food, you’re bound to lose out.  For Nature furnishes, on the average, only 19 days out of 365 when outside temperatures are fit for safe food keeping.  If you didn’t buy your Westinghouse last summer, don’t “wait until spring.” Buy it NOW.”

This General Electric refrigerator was commonly found in Wheeling homes from the 1930s into the late 1950s.  It had a handy foot pedal that allowed you to open the door with your hands full. General Electric refrigerator photo from the Library of Congress

Other refrigerator manufacturers were:

Admiral, Coldspot, Crosley, Frigidaire, Hotpoint, Kelvinator, Leonard, Norge, Philco, and Tappan.              Perhaps you remember one of these.  There were also natural gas refrigerators, Servel was one.

Photos

1920s Newspaper add, ‘The Master Refrigerator’ add from Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers Library of Congress

Window Icebox from a turn of the century newspaper add, from Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers Library of Congress

General Electric refrigerator photo from the Library of Congress

C. Seibert Ice Dealer from the John Bowman collection

A.M. Hamilton Ice from the Roger Thorngate collection Wheeling Ice & Storage Co. from the Roger Thorngate collection 


[1] Source: Cranmer, Hon. Gibson Lamb, History of Wheeling City and Ohio County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens, Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill.1902 Pgs. 156, 433, 438

Source: Bowman, John, Bills of Lading Freight On Board Wheeling, West Virginia 2012, Page 213

Sources of newspaper adds from “Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers” Library of Congress

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