Industry | Michigan’s Frozen Water Trade

Michigan was home to one of the ten largest U.S. industries of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, shipping over 25 million tons of ice during peak times to the remainder of the world through natural ice harvesting from Michigan and other Great Lakes states. 


During the winter months, farmers would earn extra income working in Michigan’s ice fields, where blocks were cut from bodies of water once they reached sufficient thickness. Once cut, slabs were hauled away on horse-drawn flatbed wagons, packed with insulation from sawdust, a convenient byproduct of Bay City’s booming lumber industry. 


Spurred by abundant regional supply and the growing American thirst for cold beverages, transportation mechanisms advanced by the early to mid 1800’s to be able to haul and ship ice to much of the rest of the world and fueled much of the desire for cold cocktails throughout the rest of the United States.


Lyndsay Edmonds