The History of Ice Makers

By Karren Doll Tolliver

Only within the past 200 years or so have people been able to make ice in their homes. If you had lived in a warm climate before then, you might never see ice in your lifetime. Until the advent of refrigeration and freezing technology, ice was cut from lakes and rivers during the winter and stored in insulated places for use during warmer months. Ice also was imported from cold to warm climates. The quality and quantity of the ice, however, was unpredictable at best.

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The History of Ice Makers

Ice Maker Inventors

In 1850, Dr. John Gorrie, a physician, scientist, inventor and humanitarian, demonstrated an ice maker and was granted a patent for the design in 1851, though he never brought it into commercial production. Gorrie is considered the father of refrigeration, inventing, among other things, an air-cooling system for a Florida hospital. He was not the only one working in the field, however. Alexander Twining received a patent in 1853 for an ice maker, and James Harrison of Australia received a patent in 1855 for an ice maker as well. In 1866, Thaddeus Lowe invented the first commercially produced ice machine, with the first commercially produced ice being sold in Dallas that same year.

Home Refrigeration

Refrigeration was invented in the mid-1800s then continuously developed by different people in different countries. Home refrigerators began to replace the old-fashioned ice box, but the early models did not have freezer compartments.

By the 1920s refrigerators in the home became widespread in the West. Freezer compartments and ice cube trays were gradually added to new refrigerator models so that people could make ice cubes at home.

First Ice Maker in a Refrigerator

In 1953 the Servel company first introduced a refrigerator with a built-in ice maker. The technology gradually evolved from people having to fill the water manually to water hook-ups that allowed the house's tap water line to be connected to the ice maker. By the 1960s, refrigerators with built-in ice makers were widespread.

First Ice Maker in the Door of a Refrigerator

In 1965, Frigidaire introduced the first refrigerator with the ice maker in the door, along with a water dispenser, so that ice and water could be dispensed without having to open the appliance. By 1985, ice cube maker storage had improved so that up to 12 pounds of ice could be kept on hand.

Portable Ice Makers

Today, people can buy portable ice makers, including standalone and under-the- counter models that produce ice cubes in as little as 10 minutes. Filling tabletop models with water is a manual process for the most part, though models exist that can have the water line installed so that it is automatic.