Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WORKDAY WEDNESDAY: Grandfather Lewis Penny Doty, Iceman

Ice Cutters in Toronto, Canada, 1890's, Courtesy of

Ice Cutters in Toronto, Canada, 1890’s
Courtesy of

Great Grandfather Lewis Penny Doty began working for the Middletown Ice Company in 1914 when he was about 47 years old driving an ice wagon. He had moved his family within the Middletown city limits from their Wallkill, (Orange Co.) New York home.

Lewis Penny was employed by the Middletown Ice Company until 1925 and perhaps for a few years after. The Middletown, New York city directories confirm he was a driver and laborer from 1914 to 1925.

A little research proved to be very informative and I must say I’ve  acquired a new respect for Great Grandfather. My mother recollects Lewis Penny “as a giant” of a man. That was fortunate because his job required great physical strength.

I consulted, the free internet encyclopedia, and am sharing parts of two articles with you describing the cutting and harvesting of the ice. [1], [2]

“Ice cutting was a winter occupation of icemen whose task it was to collect surface ice from lakes and rivers for storage in ice houses and sale as a pre-refrigeration cooling method. Kept insulated, the ice was preserved for all year delivery to residential and commercial customers with ice boxes for cold food storage.

Ice harvesting generally involved waiting until approximately a foot of ice had built up on the water surface in the winter. The ice would then be cut with either a handsaw or a powered saw blade into long continuous strips and then cut into large individual blocks for transport by wagon back to the icehouse. Because snow on top of the ice slows freezing, it could be scraped off and piled in windrows. Alternately, if the temperature is cold enough, a snowy surface could be flooded to produce a thicker layer of ice. A large operation would have a crew of 75 and cut 1500 tons daily.

The occupation generally became obsolete with the development of mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning technology.”

Wikipedia also has a silent amateur film dated 1919 showing ice harvesting in Pennsylvania which I highly recommend you watch. You can view the film at the Wikipedia website noted with my article sources.  

The local newspaper reported when the harvesting began.

Middletown Times Press, December 31, 1915 edition, Begin Local Ice Harvest

Middletown Times Press
December 31, 1915 edition

The Doty in the Doty & Shoemaker Ice Company was George W. Doty, a nephew of Lewis P. Doty.

As you can see from the next news article the weather was a concern for the ice companies.

Middletown Times Press, February 15, 1919 edition May Be Shortage of Ice This Summer

Middletown Times Press
February 15, 1919 edition

The 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929 Middletown directories indicate Lewis Penny Doty was a laborer but don’t state his employer’s name. By1930 my 62 year old Great Grandfather and my grandfather, Frank L. Doty, were both working at an ice cream factory in Middletown.

Middletown Ice Company 1915 Advertisement, Middletown City Directory

Advertisement from the 1915
Middletown, New York City Directory
 page 226

My line:
Great Grandfather Lewis Penny Doty and wife Emily Wight Taylor
Grandfather Frank Leroy Doty and wife Viola Lillian Wilson
My Mother

[1] Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
[2] Ibid,

No comments:

Post a Comment