August 6, 2010
I love telling Old West enthusiasts how modern Tombstone was in 1881. Telephones, wine rooms, ice cream parlors and coffee shops to name some of the more mind blowing conveniences they enjoyed. I also talk about ice cold beer and the fact that The Town Too Tough to Die had an ice plant. However, I wasn't sure exactly when ice came to Arizona. Well, here is the answer!
131 years ago today, the ice age arrived in a grateful Old Pueblo
Kimberly Matas Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Friday, August 6, 2010 12:00 am
"An unprecedented luxury!"
"A frozen commodity" to quench "the thirsty masses."
Such effusive language in the local media meant just one thing in 1879 - ice in the desert.
On this date 131 years ago the first ice-making machine began operation in Tucson.
Gossiped about for months in the pages of The Daily Arizona Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star, it was a race to see which Tucson entrepreneur could get his machine running first. The winner was Paul Moroney, Esq., who had his machine freighted in from San Francisco. Within two months, though, Tucson was a two-ice-company town when a machine owned by J.S. Clark began production. It was to last six years.
"There can't be too much ice for our growing population," wrote the Star.
"We are sure there will be no want of patronage for this new enterprise," wrote the Citizen.
But the patronage had to wait a few days for its domestic ice.
The Citizen reported on Aug. 4, 1879, that "a test of the works will be made this evening. If all works well, a batch of ice will be made for sale tomorrow."
Two days later, parched Tucsonans still were waiting when the paper printed this announcement: "We are promised ice in the morning."
Local media pinned their hopes for economic growth on the humble blocks of frozen water.
"This enterprise is worthy of the greatest encouragement from all of our people. It not only supplies a want, but assists in establishing Tucson as a manufacturing center. Now let us have a foundry, planing mill, tannery, and a woolen mill," according to the Star.
Tucson's hometown pride in its ice lasted less than six years. A headline in the Feb. 20, 1886 edition of the Star read: "CRUSHED! A Local Industry Forced to Join the California Monopoly." A California ice company threatened to drop its prices so far below market value that local manufacturers couldn't compete. Some consolidated with the California company, other ice makers went out of business, and Tucsonans were back to getting their ice from the Golden State. Adding insult to injury, the California company tacked on a tax of 2 cents per pound.
Tucson's first ice-making venture by the numbers:
Entrepreneurs raced to get their ice-machines shipped to Tucson - one from Paris, one from Philadelphia, one from San Francisco.
Precise time the machine began making ice on Aug. 6, 1879.
Time it took to freeze an ice block
Amount of ice the new machine could produce each day
Price per pound of ice
25 to 100 lbs.
Size of ice blocks
Time it took a California ice conglomerate to crush its Tucson competition.
Did you know?
"This enterprise is worthy of the greatest encouragement from all of our people. It not only supplies a want, but assists in establishing Tucson as a manufacturing center."
"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
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