Center Opens Frozen Asset: Ice Making & the New Bedford Fishing Industry

New Bedford, MA – The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is pleased to announce the opening of Frozen Asset: Ice Making & the New Bedford Fishing Industry on Thursday, February 8th at 6:00 p.m. during AHA.  This exhibit explores the historic and contemporary ice industry as well as how ice contributed to the success of the commercial fishing industry. A special showing of Harvesting Ice in New England 1926- 1957 will take place at 7:00 p.m.

Ice has been used to preserve food for centuries.  From the early 1800s to the 1960s, ice was harvested from fresh water ponds and stored in ice houses throughout New England.  With the advent of refrigeration in the mid 20th century, the ice industry modernized the process of making ice through the use of refrigerant, allowing ice to be made year round.

Changes in how ice was harvested in the mid-19th century allowed ice to be cut uniformly, minimizing melting in storage and during use.  Fishermen began to carry ice to preserve their bait and their catch.  Having ice allowed crews to venture farther off shore and expand the variety of species landed fresh. Ice was used by railroads to transport the catch far from fishing ports, increasing the market for fresh fish.  With the advent of refrigeration, New Bedford fishermen could land their catch here rather than at Fulton’s Fish Market in New York City and transport fish to markets across the country by truck.

Today, ice is still used to preserve the catch and land fresh product for market. Vessels ice up before heading out to sea, taking on 15 to 40 tons depending upon the target species, trip length, and time of year.

The Center is grateful to Joseh E. Swift, Crystal Ice Company, Inc., and Woods Hole Historical Museum for the support with a special thanks to guest curators Stephanie Trott and Robert Demanche. This exhibit is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Dartmouth Local Cultural Council, the Fairhaven Local Cultural Council, the Mattapoisett Local Cultural Council, and the New Bedford Cultural Council.

The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of the commercial fishing industry past, present, and future through archives, exhibits, and programs. For information, email programs@fishingheritagecenter.org or call (508) 993-8894.