10 Extinct Job Titles


Ice Cutter

harvesting ice
Two men cut strips of ice for harvesting in the early 20th century. Interim Archives/Getty Images

Ever think about how food stayed cold in the days before mechanical refrigeration? People had ice boxes in their homes that were "powered" by blocks of ice. And most folks didn't harvest their own ice for their ice boxes; instead they purchased it from others — either directly from ice cutters or from an ice deliveryman who came around the neighborhood weekly. Businesses like meatpacking and brewing, also bought blocks of ice [source: Purcell].

Ice cutters went out onto frozen rivers, lakes and ponds with shallow, slow-moving water because it formed solid, clear ice. First they'd use a horse-drawn plow to keep the area free from snow, which warmed it and retarded the freezing process. Once the water was sufficiently frozen, ice cutters would first score the ice — often into sections 2 feet by 6 feet (60 by 182 centimeters) wide — then cut it nearly through with a horse-drawn device. They made the final cuts by hand.

The blocks of ice were then floated through a precut channel to a spot where they could be removed and delivered. The job was not without its dangers; sometimes the ice cutters and/or their horses would fall into the icy water during the process. Once the ice was harvested, icemen delivered it to customers or straight to factories. Ice was harvested this way well into the 1930s, when mechanical refrigeration became the norm [source: Purcell].