Don’t Try to Harvest Ice from Jamaica Pond, Instead Learn About History of Harvesting Pond Ice

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Before modern refrigerators produced ice, people had to gather ice where it naturally formed -- like from Jamaica Pond.

Jamaica Plain Historical Society (JPHS) member Charlie Rosenberg provided a presentation in 2023 about this fascinating industry and the over-sized role it played in Jamaica Plain’s economy. By 1880, the Jamaica Pond Ice Company had 22 icehouses on Jamaica Pond with a storage capacity of 30,000 tons, according to JPHS.

Prior to the introduction of home refrigerators in 1916, ice was commonly used to keep food fresh. The Jamaica Pond Ice Company delivered ice to residences for use in iceboxes that were wood chests lined with zinc. This photograph shows two delivery men using ice tongs to hold blocks of ice cut to the proper size to fit into iceboxes. Iceboxes didn't disappear from U.S. homes entirely until after World War II when mass production made refrigerators affordable for most families. (Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library/Info from JPHS)

It's important to keep in mind that ice was a commodity available only to the very rich and to those who could harvest it themselves. That changed as the ice harvesting industry became increasingly mechanized, and the new technologies allowed more people to enjoy the benefits of ice year-round.

Watch the presentation, and please don't try to harvest ice from Jamaica Pond!