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Refrigeration In The R. R. V.


Rick Clow

Senior High Division

Today, as modernized human beings, we enjoy comforts andluxuries that the pioneers in the past did not enjoy.

Today, as we are watching television in the living roomand our stomachs grown, we get up, walk into the kitchen, open up the electricrefrigerator and find something to eat that will satisfy our hunger. Itwas not always this easy. For centuries, cool caves, running streams, andholes in the earth were the only places to refrigerate food.

The lack of refrigeration or cooling or any kind causeda constant struggle to keep foods fresh. Meats, dairy products, such as,milk, butter, and eggs were a difficult problem. One way of keeping productscool was by storing them in a cellar. In many homes, this was a dugout underthe kitchen. The foods in the cellar were subject to freezing during a coldwinter and getting too warm in the summer. In the summer, when it was toohot to keep the foods in the cellar, the foods were packed into pails andlowered into wells were the pails floated in the water. Here it was cooledto ground temperature which averages forty degrees up in this area of thenorthern Red River Valley. People who didn't have these wells were at agreat disadvantage.

By 1875, pioneers in the Red River Valley were storingice cut from lakes, ponds, and rivers. They stored the ice in caves, cellarsand buildings for use in the summer. These pioneers found that if they packedsawdust, wood shavings, or cork around the ice or in the buildings walls,it would slow down the warm air that melted the ice.

When it came time to harvest or cut the ice from the riversand lakes, everybody pitched in to help each other get this hard work done.The men and the boys worked out on the ice covered lakes cutting and haulingthe chunks of ice, while the women prepared large dinners and suppers tofeed the hungry men.

The process of harvesting the ice was interesting: Theice was first scraped clean of all snow, dirt, and other debris. A machinecalled a marker, or groover, cut a series of grooves about a yard apartup and down the stream. It was then drawn across the lake, marking parallelgrooves the same distance apart. This made large blocks of ice. A plow thathad a set of sharp knives fitted to a steel bar followed the marker. Itcut the groves deeper so it was easy to pry the ice blocks loose. Theseblocks were then floated to the shore through channels cut in the ice. Afterthe cakes had floated to the shore, they were slid up slanting boards intoan icehouse and packed in sawdust.

"Ice is one of the oldest methods of refrigeration.The Chinese cut and stored ice as long as 1000 B.C."(1)

Iceboxes were another method of refrigeration. Since warmair rises, a cake of ice in the upper part of an icebox absorbs heat fromthe warm air. This cools the warm air and increases its weight. The meltingice produces water that helps keep the icebox moist. Vegetables and otherfoods keep better in moist air.

The first artificial ice plant was set up in 1908 at NewOrleans. That same year, the first refrigerator car was built. Now, meat,poultry, dairy products and other foods could be shipped to distant placeswithout spoiling. In 1960, there were about 115,0000 ice refrigerated railroadcars. Ice refrigerated trucks also carry foods.

The successful shipping of meats, fruits, milk, and othervegetables under refrigeration made more foods available to everyone. Itwas no longer necessary for every community to own a slaughterhouse.

It took the extremely mild winter of 1889-1900 and theshortage of ice caused from this to bring mechanical refrigeration intouse. This demand for ice led to the building and operation of many artificialice-making plants. The first automatic home refrigerator was placed on themarket in America in 1918.

The different types of refrigeration beside our modernelectric refrigeration used in the past and at the present were the Gasand Steam-Jet refrigeration.

The gas refrigerator used heat energy as a source of powerand has no moving parts. Liquid ammonia usually serves as a refrigerant.This refrigeration is used today mostly in mobile homes, and in campers.It comes in handy in places where there is no electricity. The Amish, areligious group of people who don't believe in using electricity, also usethis type of refrigerator.

The steam-jet refrigerator uses only water as a refrigerant.It works on the principle that water vaporizes easily under low pressurelike that in a partial vacuum. Steam-jet refrigerators produce practicallyno noise or vibration, occupy little space and have no moving parts excepta pump. Steam-jet refrigeration has wide use in industrial and shipboardcooling. Brewers and distillers also make use of this type of mechanicalrefrigeration.

Defrosting is probably the most important part of caringfor a refrigerator. The coating of frost that collects on the freezing unitacts as an insulation and interferes with the cooling of the refrigerator.Because of this, the refrigerator has to be defrosted regularly, as muchas most housekeepers detest the job.

Most American homes today have electric or gas refrigerators,in which perishable foods can be stored for a week or more. Ice cubes canbe frozen and many foods can be kept for months in the freezer part of therefrigerator, or in a separate home freezer. Families here in the Red RiverValley often buy meats and other foods when they are plentiful and cheapand package and store them in freezer lockers for future use.

The refrigerator has advanced a long way, as everythingour parents and grandparents used to have also have been modernized. Theair conditioner, the stove, the heaters, the automobile and many more. Theseappliances have been modernized through hard working research that beganin the beginning of time. It will continue to work this way as long as weare concerned about the future of our great Country.


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(1) Mabel Otis, "Minnesota Pioneers" Copyright1958