Artifact of the MonthIce Tongs, circa 1930

Ice Tongs
Donated by Ada Parish Younkin

These circa 1930 ice tongs belonged to the James and Ada Parish family, who moved from south Arkansas to Fayetteville in the 1920s so their daughter Verna could attend the University of Arkansas (UA). Along with farming, the Parish family ran a boarding house on the corner of Garland Avenue and Deane Street for university students. (The house still stands in 2018).

Verna Parish graduated from the UA with a degree in English and went on to obtain a PhD. She was taught English and Latin in public schools in Northwest Arkansas and Texas and at Mississippi State College for Women and Fort Hays State College in Hays, Kansas.

These ice tongs were for home use. Commercial ice haulers used much larger, forged tongs to handle huge blocks of ice.

In the 1800s and into the early 1900s in Northwest Arkansas, ice used to keep food cold had to be harvested from frozen creeks and ponds during the winter months. Grooves were cut in the ice with tools pulled by horses. Workers then used ice saws to cut loose the blocks, which were then lifted into a wagon using hooks or horses with block and tackle. Once in the wagon, the ice blocks were covered with sawdust and straw for insulation. Blocks were then taken for storage in a home or commercial ice house.

Harvesting ice on Osage Creek near Oak Grove (Carroll County), circa 1910. Larry Parmlee Collection (S-85-5-26)
Harvesting ice on Osage Creek near Oak Grove (Carroll County), circa 1910. Larry Parmlee Collection (S-85-5-26)

In town, commercial ice houses delivered ice via a wagon driven by the "ice man." Residential customers hung a sign in their window to let the ice man know how much ice they needed for their ice box (the forerunner of today's refrigerator).

Siloam Springs Cold Storage and Ice wagon, Siloam Springs, circa 1910. Siloam Springs Museum Collection (S-83-297-62)
Siloam Springs Cold Storage and Ice wagon, Siloam Springs, circa 1910. Siloam Springs Museum Collection (S-83-297-62)

Ice manufacturing plants began appearing in Northwest Arkansas in the early 1900s. The plants were built near railways to provide ice for refrigerated rail cars shipping fruit and to a smaller extent, poultry products, from the region. These early refrigerated cars had a hatch on the roof where ice blocks were lowered in, as seen in the photo below.

Loading apples into refrigerated cars on the St. Paul Branch of the Frisco Railroad, Elkins (Washington County), circa 1910. McNeal, photographer. June Boyd Collection (S-98-166-155)
Loading apples into refrigerated cars on the St. Paul Branch of the Frisco Railroad, Elkins (Washington County), circa 1910. McNeal, photographer. June Boyd Collection (S-98-166-155)


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