Ice Saw, Tongs, and Pike Pole

The ice saw, tongs, and pike pole seen here were used on Conesus Lake.  Teams of as many as 100 men worked each winter to “harvest” ice.  After the lake was frozen to a substantial depth, the surface would be marked out in “cakes” and a saw was used to cut the ice into blocks.  The blocks were then pried apart using long-handled picks and chisels.  Once separated, these chunks could be manipulated with tongs and pushed across the ice using a pike pole.   Blocks of ice were transported by sled to various locations.

The ice saw, tongs, and pike pole seen here were used on Conesus Lake.  Teams of as many as 100 men worked each winter to “harvest” ice.  After the lake was frozen to a substantial depth, the surface would be marked out in “cakes” and a saw was used to cut the ice into blocks.  The blocks were then pried apart using long-handled picks and chisels.  Once separated, these chunks could be manipulated with tongs and pushed across the ice using a pike pole.   Blocks of ice were transported by sled to various locations.


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, water in its frozen form was used to preserve food in American homes.  Most homes had straw-insulated ice houses where ice could be stored year round.  In later years, ice blocks could be stored in insulated warehouses or transported by railroads to distant locations.  Stored ice would gradually be distributed to homes and businesses through the spring and summer months. Ice chests filled with blocks of ice were the primary means of refrigeration until electric refrigerators became affordable after World War II.  Convenient refrigeration is something Americans take for granted today.  Can you imagine living life today without refrigeration technology?