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The Sears Catalogue originated in what city?

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Sears House Designs of the Thirties


Proudly promoting itself as "the largest home building organization in the world," Sears, Roebuck and Company advertised in 1932 products in a handsome catalog that also displayed a full-size replica of Mount Vernon, created from Sears materials for a Paris exposition in 1932. At the heart of this now-rare publication were measured floor plans for 68 Sears homes. Over 200 illustration displayed interiors and exteriors for such handsome residences.

                                   
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LATEST ANTIQUES ARTICLE______________________________

Keeping Food Cold
by Bob Brooke

 

The traditional ice box dates back to the days of ice harvesting, which peaked between the 1850s and the 1930s, when manufacturers introduced the gas-powered refrigerator into American homes. However, the ice box became such a part of American culture that older people often refer to their refrigerators as ice boxes. But the real story of the ice box began in 1802.

Ice Box History
Back then, an American farmer and cabinetmaker, Thomas Moore, needed to figure out a way to get his butter to market in solid chunks rather than a melted mass. He experimented with various methods until he came up with an ingenious solutionóthe ice box. His first design consisted of an oval cedar tub with a tin container fitted inside with ice between them, all wrapped in rabbit fur to insulate the device. Later versions included hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed. He placed a large block of ice in a tray near the top, so cold air could circulate down and around the tin storage compartment. Moore used his device to transport butter from his home to the Georgetown markets, allowing him to sell firm, brick butter instead of soft, melted tubs like his fellow vendors.

By 1830, Moore refined his design by making a wooden cabinet, similar to a large dresser, of hardwoods such as oak or walnut. As with his earlier versions, he lined the cabinet with zinc or tin, packed with insulating materials such as straw, flax, sawdust, cork, mineral wool, or charcoal. He tried each material to see which worked best, eventually settling on zinc.

Moore added several storage compartments inside the cabinet, with doors to each, including the ice compartment. He placed a drainage hole in it so that melted water, collected in a tray, could be emptied daily. Other ice box makers added spigots for draining the ice water.

The user had to replenish the melted ice, normally by obtaining new ice from an iceman, who delivered it by horse and wagon. The design of the ice box allowed perishable foods to be stored longer than before and without the need for lengthy preservation processes such as canning, drying, or smoking. Refrigerating perishables also had the added benefit of not altering the taste of what was preserved.



Until the late 1820s, cabinetmakers made ice boxes to order. But by the 1840s, various companies appeared including Sears & Roebuck, The Baldwin Refrigerator Company, and the Ranney Refrigerator Company began to mass produce ice boxes. Historians consider D. Eddy & Son of Boston to be the first company to produce ice boxes in large quantities. During this time, many Americans desired big ice boxes. Such companies like the Boston Scientific Refrigerator Company, introduced ice boxes which could hold up to 50 lbs of ice. A survey of New York City residents in 1907 found that 81 percent of the families surveyed owned some form of ice box.

Harvesting Ice
Before the advent of ice collection in the early 19th century, people used underground pits to store ice. These had a constant temperature of 54 degrees F. and helped preserve the ice that had been collected during the winter. They also were a great place to store perishable goods. The pits had to be dug below the frost line, usually 3 to 5 feet below the surface. Besides providing good insulation, they also deterred animals from getting to the perishable items stored within. Homeowners lined the pits with straw and sawdust compacted along the sides of the ice to provide further insulation and slow the ice melting process.

In 1827, the invention of the commercial ice cutter increased the ease and efficiency of harvesting natural ice. This invention made ice cheaper and, in turn, helped the ice box become more common.



As the ice box began to make its way into homes during the early to mid 19th century, ice collection and distribution expanded and soon became a global industry. During the latter half of the 19th century, natural ice became the second most important US export by value, after cotton.

Workers harvested the ice in winter from snow-packed areas or frozen lakes. Then they brought the ice to ice houses by horse and wagon or sleigh for it to be stored. Eventually, they used motorized trucks..

By the 1930s, most residential homeowners began replacing their ice boxes with refrigerators. However, not all households could afford the luxury of electric refrigerators, especially during the Great Depression.

As more households adopted the ice box, the overall quality and freshness of food improved. Ice boxes enabled people to go to the market less and store leftovers more safely. All of this contributed to the improvement of the peopleís health by increasing the fresh food readily able, as well as its overall safety. However, with urban growth, many sources of natural ice became contaminated from industrial pollution or sewer runoff, necessitating the switch from ice boxes using blocks of ice to gas-powered refrigerators.



Antique Ice Box Market Value
Depending on the condition, an antique wooden ice box can be worth a lot of money. Many restored ice boxes now sell for as much as $2,000 to $3,000. Itís even possible to buy a restored antique wooden ice box that has been converted into a refrigerator or wine cooler with modern refrigeration equipment.

The usability of an antique ice box determines its actual market value The ice boxís age, size, condition, material, authenticity and provenance all contribute to its value.

Even a properly restored or professionally refinished ice box can be a good buy. While a restored or refinished model can sell for as little as $2,000, extremely rare ice boxes in good condition can cost as much as $10,000.

With those prices, itís a good idea to make sure an ice box is worth it. Early ice boxes didnít feature top-quality structure, so quality will vary. Itís important to check the wooden surface closely to detect signs of deterioration, such as visible cracks, chips, scratches, and warps. All of these add to the originality of the ice box. Reproductions are common, and many get sold as antiques.
 

WATCH A VIDEO:  Using a 100-Plus Year Old Ice Box

Also, when purchasing an antique ice box, a buyer should settle for a simple design with a minimal number of compartments. Too many storage spaces with ornate designs indicate itís a reproduction.

Itís also a good idea to check for the finishing on the edges which may offer clues to classic wooden pieces. The type of joinery use will indicate old-school craftsmanship. . Joining, screws, nuts, bolts must feature deteriorating rust over time. Remember, cabinetmakers constructed early ice boxes individually.

Next, check the interior insulation. Minimal finishing can appear on the sides to hold insulating materials. Itís also important to determine the condition or functionality of the insulating materials. Early materials should have aged out long ago.

Explore the slot to allow drainage of the melted water from the compartments. Genuine antique ice boxes should have marks indicating previous use.

Look for rust on interior surfaces. This is a sure sign that it has been covered in galvanized steel.

Many people who purchase antique ice boxes repurpose them to store all sorts of items without disturbing the integrity of the original ice box. Most people donít purchase more than one ice box. Itís a piece of antique furniture and should be treated as such.


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