Johnson ice wagon


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History of Freeland, Pa.
Ice sellers and businesses


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  • Ice sellers and businesses
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In homes, before electrical refrigerators were invented, iceboxes were used to keep food cool. They were known at the time as “refrigerators,” but were non-mechanical, being merely containers for food that could also hold a large block of ice in a separate compartment to keep the food cold.

Ice was cut from the surface of ponds and streams, then stored in ice houses before being sold/distributed via ice wagon to residential and commercial customers. Using ice in railroad train cars for “refrigerator cars” enabled shipment of perishable goods.

Ready Kilowatt and electrical refrigerators Electrical home refrigerators were invented in 1913 and came into use over the next 20 years as various modifications were developed -- by the 1930s electric refrigerators were more common in homes and people could make their own ice, reducing demand for ice businesses. Ad at left came from Charlie Stumpf.

The 1895 ad shown below from E. B. Shelhamer shows that he was "original and exclusive dealer in pure spring water ice." The photo at the top left corner of this page came from John Zubach and shows the Johnson & Son's ice wagon, wooden wheels, probably horse-drawn. You can see chunks of ice in the back of the wagon, and note the frosty ice drawn on the ICE letters on side of the wagon. I remember being told that Johnson got his ice from a reservoir/ice pond next to the road to Upper Lehigh, on the left as you drive that way from Birkbeck Street. The second image from left shows his pond on the 1912 Sanborn map. "Joe Johnson, Ice Dealer" was listed in the 1912 telephone directory.

The center image is from John Zubach and shows the same Johnson & Son company's Ice House, on Dewey Street alongside the Freeland Shirt Company. Now the truck is automotive with rubber tires. The man standing behind the truck was Joe Johnson, the man standing on the truck was Joe Willams (8 or 9 years old), and "sitting on the truck cab is ....... Haggerty." This photo was published in the April 1969 Pennysaver. The 1932 newspaper clipping next to it came from Charlie Stumpf and reports that building contractor Hudock was building a new ice plant on Johnson Street, and that the well was already drilled. The 4-20-1960 clipping at far right is from Ed Merrick. It reports a fire destroying the former ice house that was more recently part of Shaub's Freeland Pattern Works, and some history of the ice business is recounted.


Shelhamer Ice ad, 1895 Johnson Ice Pond, 1912 Sanborn map Johnson Ice, 1915 New Johnson and Ashman ice plant, 1932 Ice house fire, 1960










Johnson was not listed as selling ice in the Freeland directories of the 1880s and 1890s. Elias Shellhammer was listed as a blacksmith in 1886 and as selling ice at 37 Centre in 1895 and at E. Main near Washington in 1897. "Tetlow's Coal and Ice" was listed at 609 Main Street in 1901 and 1917. By the 1920s ice dealers were not listed among the business listings in the local directories for 1921-1922 or 1928-1929.

The photo below left is a detail cropped from a photo of Highland sent by Tom Yaruso and shows a truck in the background with "Johnny's Ice" written on the side. Tom said he had not heard of that company. Meanwhile, the photo at bottom right was taken in some other town, unknown, showing a wagon advertising Jeddo-Highland Coal in front of a hotel that looks something like our Central Hotel but I don't think it is -- the sign on its front says "Richmond." But look at that truck! The company name is Weller's, selling purity ice and coal. The driver's name is Frank Havens. And the helpful advice on the light-colored sign: "Use more ICE, waste less food."

Johnny's Ice truck in Highland Sample of ice advertising on a truck in another town






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Site contructed by C. Tancin.
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frld-ice.html