Ice Harvesting Tools

By Josh Bartlett

In the days before mechanical refrigeration was common, block ice was an important "crop". The ice was cut into blocks of about 18" X 30" X 8" from frozen ponds and lakes and stored in sawdust insulated, double walled ice houses. These blocks were cut into smaller blocks and sold to hotels, restaurants, camps, and homes, or shipped by rail to as far away as Boston.

Often the pond used here in Town was Berry Pond. Local men were hired to cut the blocks and store them for shipment or for local sale. The men were paid on "piece work"; each separate task carrying a rate for each piece brought from the pond. This back-breaking work was a cold, often wet job, but it offered late winter income for men who were willing to work hard.

These tools were used by a lifelong resident of Moultonborough, Mr. Fred Davis (1915 -1989) and the crew he worked with in the 1930s. As a sawyer on one such crew, Fred Davis was said to have earned $9.00 in one day, cutting 300 blocks of ice at a rate of $.03 per block, quite a task in the 9 to 11 hours of daylight they could work!

These tools are on loan to the Moultonborough Historical Society by Mr. Davis' family. Mr. Fred Davis and his wife, Dorothy Wakefield Davis, were two of the charter members of the Moultonborough Historical Society.

(Double click on an image to enlarge)
Ice Saw Moultonborough Historical Society
Saw used to cut the Ice Blocks from the lines scored and partially cut with a horse drawn ice cutting plow. Approx. 44"
Ice Chisel Moultonborough Historical Society
Hand forged Ice Chisel for separating blocks. Approx. 44". Note the pointed shoulders on the chisel - helpful when pulling floating blocks.
Ice Paevey Moultonborough Historical Society
Ice Paevey 2 Moultonborough Historical Society
Small   Peavey   .   Used   for handling large blocks. Approx. 44".
Ice Tongs Large Moultonborough Historical Society
Large ice Tongs. Approx. 36" Used for pulling large blocks from the pond - often attached to a gin-pole derrick that allowed the crew to both lift and swing the 100 -125 Ib. blocks onto a sledge.
Ice Tongs Small Moultonborough Historical Society
Small Ice Tongs.   Approx. 15". Used      for      handling      small      blocks.

Watch Mr. Bartlett's presentation from June 11th, 2012, in the Emerson Barn, at the Lamprey House Museum.

 J.H. Bartlett, ©2012