Friday, June 7, 2013

Ice Harvest on Lake Erie

Old Time Erie: postcard courtesy of Tom DiLuzio.
Harvesting ice on the lake was an annual event in Erie, PA. As you can see from the postcard shown above, it took a lot of physical effort to cut and pull chunks of ice out of the water. There are about nine horses and two dozen men in this shot. 

In 1905, it took two weeks for local companies to collect enough ice to last through the summer and fall and early winter. Blocks of ice were delivered house to house in the days before electricity powered in-home refrigerators. 

"The Union Ice Company concluded the work of harvesting its supply on Friday (Feb. 10), after having gathered into its houses 25,000 tons, or sufficient for its business for two years. The second crop, for the first time in over a decade, was cut from the bay off the foot of State street, being the finest quality of ice ever harvested, of an average thickness of 12 inches, and of a crystal clearness.

The Mutual Company has harvested between 12,000 and 15,000 tons, having its house filled to repletion. With the crop harvested by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and other concerns will bring the total quantity of ice gathered off the bay this winter close to 75,000 tons.

In gathering the crop upwards of 500 men were employed at least two weeks. 

The union scale prevailed: 
Polers, the men who float the cakes through the channels, $1.75 per day
Plowmen, $2.00 per day
Feeders, $2.25 per day
Packers and Foremen, $2.50 per day

Ice harvesting comes as a godsend to a number of men who are out of work at this particular season, and the wages earned assist materially in tiding many families through this winter." -Erie Evening Herald, February 14, 1905.

Here's a different postcard view of Harvesting ice on the bay in Erie, PA

Enjoy more facts and photos of Erie PA at: Old Time Erie

1 comment:

  1. That looks dangerous, especially with all those horses on the ice.