When ever I hear about a dying industry being bailed out to “preserve a way of life” I always think of the massive ice harvesting industry that disappeared  almost overnight once modern refrigeration became common. I imagine that poor teenager apprentice trained and ready to take over the family business, when suddenly it all goes away.

Gizmodo has an longish excellent article, with  many pictures, on the the lost art of the ice harvest itself as practiced at the annual ice cutting event in South Bristol, Maine.

In 1805, a twenty-three year-old Bostonian named Frederic Tudor launched a new industry: the international frozen-water trade. Over the next fifty years, he and the men he worked with developed specialized ice-harvesting tools, a global network of thermally engineered ice houses, and a business model that cleverly leveraged ballast-less ships, off-season farmers, and overheated Englishmen abroad. By the turn of the century, the industry employed 90,000 people and was worth $220 million in today’s terms.

By 1930, it had disappeared, almost without trace, replaced by an artificial cryosphere of cold storage warehouses and domestic refrigerators.

They also point out how the industry fell into a strange loop-hole in government classifications:

Funnily enough, despite being a thriving industry, it barely figures in official statistics: as Gavin Weightman explains, “since it could be classified as neither mining nor farming, it was not subject to any taxes that would have given federal or state governments an interest in it.”

Follow the link and see how it was done:

Learning the Lost Art of Ice Harvesting in Maine

 

And here are some crazy young men in Latvia cutting ice again, this time for some wake boarding!

Project Black Ice at Marupe Wake Park