Despite more than 150 years’ worth of study and experimentation, no one really knows why ice is slippery.
More speed skating world records have been broken in Utah than anywhere else on Earth.
When Frederic Tudor, the man who launched the American ice trade, brought ice to the Caribbean in 1806, the people living there weren’t sure what to do with it (this was, remember, an age before electric refrigeration). So he showed them how to use it to make ice cream. The dessert became a sensation in Cuba. Fidel Castro was famously smitten with it. Author Gabriel García Márquez once recalled watching the revolutionary leader consume eighteen scoops in one sitting.
Nineteenth-century Americans used ice to store perishable foods in amounts that astounded visitors from Europe, where an ice trade had yet to be developed. Apples, for example, became so commonplace in the young republic that visitors coined the phrase “as American as apple pie.”
Despite iced tea’s southern associations, the drink was actually popularized in the North, where ice formed naturally and was cheaper to harvest and store. Not until the 1980s did iced tea become an iconic southern beverage, or as Dolly Parton’s character “Truvy Jones” in the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias calls it, “the house wine of the South.”
Nineteenth-century theaters used large blocks of ice to cool their auditoriums. They positioned the ice in front of large fans, which then blew cooled air toward the audience. When theaters were very busy, the heat from so many people gathered together forced the fans to work harder and caused the ice to melt faster. This likely contributed, along with the Royal Air Force’s use of large bombs during World War II, to critics calling the most popular shows “block busters.”
By WWII, the burgeoning industry of electric refrigeration was catching up to the ice industry, and companies like the Southland Ice Company were forced to rethink their business plans. Southland began selling kitchen staples like milk and bread alongside their ice. The combination became so popular, the company extended its hours to keep up with demand, and within a few years renamed itself after its new hours of operation. The 7-Eleven was born, and convenience stores today still sell ice.
In the 1920s, General Electric became the first American company to standardize electric refrigerators, making them more affordable and ubiquitous. Early refrigerators drew an enormous amount of energy, a fact certainly not lost on (and probably encouraged by) GE.
Between WWII and 1975, the amount of electricity refrigerators consumed grew by more than 350 percent. Today, a look at energy use around the globe reveals that the cooling industry (refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners) accounts for almost 10 percent of all CO2 emissions.
In an age of accelerating global warming, a question begs to be asked: Can ice in the freezer and ice on our planetary poles continue to coexist?