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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/689

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669
OUR ICE-SUPPLY AND ITS DANGERS.

now in some parts of the track of the North American ice-belt, scattered or piled in masses where the ancient moraines were gathered, miles from their kindred rock. And now over the surface of the bare, forbidding region, slowly as the ages passed, crept the verdure which, out of rock and air, was to recreate the world. Probably long before man made his appearance, on this part of the continent at least, the ice had all melted and gone to waste. He came, however, at last, the savage, the Dutchman, and—most perfect bloom—the New-Yorker.

In the early days of New York village life the stolid citizen was far too busy to spend much thought on luxuries, in adapting himself to the untried conditions of the New World and maintaining his foothold against the wiles of his savage neighbors. His gustatory sense had, with characteristic directness, been contented for the most part with plain unadorned rum when it felt the need of extraneous stimulation, and this and other simple drinks were either taken au naturel or re-enforced by the addition of spices under the kindly offices of fire. Water, which the early citizen may, in moments of relaxation of the mental fiber, have playfully regarded as a beverage, was largely derived from wells, and thus might be had of sufficient coolness to be palatable under natural conditions.

Half a century ago two score wagons sufficed to distribute all the ice which was used in New York; but the demand steadily increased, until now nearly three and a half million tons are harvested annually, in favorable seasons, in the vicinity of New York. Few realize how much the comfort and welfare of all classes, especially in the summer months, have come to depend upon that free use of ice which its abundance and cheapness make possible. Untold dangers from the consumption of spoiled meat and other fresh foods are warded off through its preservative action, and their market value largely reduced. And who can adequately realize the comfort and even life-saving agency of ice among the sick and injured? When the charities of New York are summed up, the free distribution of ice-water in some districts of our city should not be reckoned as among the least important.

Perhaps of any single class of consumers of ice the brewers use the largest quantities, to control the high temperature which accompanies the fermentation of the wort; but for this purpose processes of artificial cooling have, to a considerable extent, replaced the natural ice. Ice-cream makers and market-men are also among the most important consumers. The experiences of the writer would hardly justify him in enlarging upon the multifarious concoctions into which ice enters before they are handed by the white-aproned autocrats over the more or less attractive bars of our no longer temperate town to gilded and brazen youth and statesmen, or to their humbler confrères and constituents more commonly only dirt-adorned. On the whole, in spite of its not infrequent abuse when used for drinking purposes in large quantities and at unsuitable times, ice is one of the most indispensable