Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, November 28, 1999, pg. 3

In our times of modern conveniences most persons are unaware of how people lived just a few generations ago. One appliance we take for granted is the refrigerator to cool or freeze our food. Before the refrigerator, however, was the ice box which cooled food in the early 20th century. Mrs. Lena (Kaiser) Ruff has provided us with information concerning the Michigan Artificial Ice Products Company which was located at 1013 Barnes St., later the site of the Johnson Manufacturing Company. Lena’s husband Elwin Ruff (1897-1988) worked here.

Lena writes, "Before the days of refrigerators, many people were able to buy chunks of ice, which were cut from the frozen lakes and rivers. The pieces of ice were packed in sawdust and stored in an insulated shed near River Street. (Note: This was the Eastman Ice Company at 204 River Street). The ice was used in ice boxes.

In the early 1920s the Michigan Artificial Ice Products Company was built on Barnes St. William D. Lindley (1891-1962) was the manager for several years. Water in heavy sheet metal containers was submerged in salt brine tanks. The tanks were under the floor of many trap doors. The brine tanks were cooled below 32 degrees.

After the water in the containers were frozen, they had to be lifted from the tanks. A machine scored the blocks of ice about 1 inch deep on each side, marking them into 25 or 50 lb. pieces. By striking the ice with an ice pick it was easy to split whatever size you needed for your ice box. The blocks were stored in a cold storage room until needed.

The blocks of ice were located onto the trucks and covered with heavy canvas. The ice was delivered to many customers in Albion as well as farm homes. How many persons remember Jimmie Curfoot the ice man? Brightly colored cards were placed in the windows to indicate the size of ice wanted.

The house was seldom locked and money was left on the icebox for the ice man. Hauling 50 lbs. on your shoulder to upstairs apartments was not an easy task. In 1925 Elwin Ruff started work at the plant and in 1928 he was asked to be manager. Raymond Marshall (1883-1964) and the Kemler boys were always ready for a job. There were three trucks to deliver ice.

About 1934 the refrigerator came on the market. At that time most farmers had electricity as well as homes in the city. Therefore, ice blocks were no longer needed and the ice plant closed about 1936."

From our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of the ice plant with their three delivery trucks and drivers. First truck, Dave Coomer and helper. Second truck, Elijah Marshall and Elwin Ruff. Third truck, William Dean.

The Ice Plant and Three Delivery Trucks & Drivers


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