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Finding Katahdin Document Packets, Chapter 7, Section 4

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Ice harvesting on the Kennebec River, ca. 1900

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Ice harvesting on the Kennebec River, ca. 1900 / Maine Historical Society

Chapter 7, page 219-220.

Ice harvesting on the Kennebec River in the 1900s. By 1891, there were 42 ice houses operating on the Kennebec River.

This image shows an ice plow, which was an ice cutting tool used to mark and score the ice.

The first step in ice harvesting was clearing the ice of snow using a scraper led by a team of horses. Workers would then mark a grid on the surface of the ice using a hand marker and straightedge. The grid was deepened using a horse-drawn marker that cut 2/3 of the way into the ice.

The next step was to open a canal, which was a strip of open-water that led to the ice house. Workers could then saw off chunks of ice, freeing them from the grid, and float them to the ice house.

Once at the ice house, the ice was picked-up using ice hooks, and stored in sawdust and hay until shipment. When stored correctly, ice could last over a year.