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Great Stories of the Great Plains: Keeping the beef steaks cold in 1895 Jamestown

Refrigerators come in all sizes. There are the little ones that people might keep in a dorm room or an office to the bigger ones that keep food cold in the kitchen. On the commercial scale, there are refrigerators that you can walk around in and ...

Refrigerators come in all sizes. There are the little ones that people might keep in a dorm room or an office to the bigger ones that keep food cold in the kitchen. On the commercial scale, there are refrigerators that you can walk around in and that can store thousands of pounds of food.

In the modern world, if I say refrigerator, everyone knows what I’m talking about. That was not the case back in 1895 when Schmitz’s Meat Market installed “a refrigerator, or cold storage room 9 by 20 feet.”

This cold storage room was divided into three areas for salt meats, quarters of beef or pork and cut meat.

Jamestown was still decades away from getting reliable electricity so this was still an ice box although one built on a large scale.

What set the refrigerator at Schmitz’s Meat Market apart from the others is it had devices to control the temperature to keep the meat from getting too cold or warm.

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This fridge used a patented pan, according to The Jamestown Alert article, that held the ice. Temperatures were regulated by slates underneath the pans that could be moved to regulate the temperature of the walk-in cooler.

A couple other features included vents at the top of the room to vent warm air and a series of troughs on the edge of the ice pan to drain away the melted ice.

“If the pan fulfills all that is claimed for it, the storage rooms will be perfectly dry,” the Alert wrote.

The technology that makes the modern electric refrigerator work was invented in the 1830s although it wasn’t until 1913 that the first home refrigerator was marketed. When electricity came to a community, the refrigerator was one of the first investments the homeowner made. It was just so much more convenient than keeping food cold with an ice box and eliminated the weekly hassle of having someone deliver a block of ice.

The electric refrigerator is also an example of technology ending an established industry. Harvesting ice from a lake or stream during the winter and distributing it to homes and businesses through the summer was a steady and lucrative business even into the 1930s.

Ice companies delivered door to door for the residential trade but bigger deliveries to commercial accounts.

The railroad would have been a big customer. Cold storage railroad cars would likely have stopped in Jamestown to add ice to keep the cargo cold.

In Jamestown, I would think Schmitz’s Meat Market would also have been a big customer.

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The Jamestown Alert article noted the refrigerator at the meat market stored eight to 10 tons of ice in its patented pan. That is a lot of ice cubes to keep the beef and pork in Jamestown cold.

Author Keith Norman can be

reached at www.KeithNorman-Books.com.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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