Thom and Gail Hogan Lucia have been collecting all types of objects related to the ICE industry for approximately 30 years now. It all started when Gail’s dad, Wilbur J. Hogan, a third generation Iceman, gave the Lucia’s a pair of ice tongs that he used when he delivered ice as a teenager in Springfield, Massachusetts in the 1930’s It was Gail’s grandfather, Peter F. Hogan, who established the Liberty Ice Co. in 1902 in Springfield, Massachusetts. And, it was Gail’s great-grandfather, Peter Hogan, born in Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland, who came to America before the turn of the century to begin what became the family’s profession of “Iceman”.
Below is an aerial view of the Hogan Homestead in the mid 1930s. Hogan’s Pond in visible in the upper right side of the photo. Thom Lucia worked for Liberty Ice as a “modern day” iceman in the 1970s. Thom delivered what is known as “manufactured” ice, which is not the “natural” ice that was once harvested during the New England winter months from local ponds in the early 1900s and delivered by the Icemen in horse drawn wagons. The ice that Thom delivered was manufactured in nearby Holyoke, Massachusetts by the Hogan family’s other ice company appropriately named the Holyoke Ice Company. The product was then transferred to Liberty Ice where it was cubed, bagged and delivered to local vending machines or businesses.
Ice boxes date back to the 1830s. Most ice boxes were insulated with mineral wool, charcoal, cork or flax straw fiber. The inside of the ice box was usually lined with galvanized metal, zinc, slate, porcelain, or wood. The outside was finished in oak, pine, ash or metal. The average home ice box would hold a 25 or 50 pound block of ice. The price of a 25-pound block of ice was about 15 cents in the early 1900s. The ice block would last from one to two days during the hot summer months. A small drain built into the ice box would direct the melted ice water into a pan underneath the ice box. The pan had to be emptied frequently to avoid getting water all over the kitchen floor. Around 1913 electric refrigerators started to be massed produced. Aggressive sales tactics by the refrigerator companies contributed to the gradual demise of the ice box.Ice Card
The ICEBOX MEMORIES collection currently contains over to 900 ice picks, 175 pair of ice tongs, 300 Ice cards and 12 unique iceboxes all in usable condition. Thom and Gail have attempted to include in their collection the varied tools and equipment used in harvesting ice from ponds and lakes. Ice crushers, ice scales, ice harvesting tools, actual clothing items, unique photos and post cards, horse equipment, dozens of binders and boxes full of ice company letterheads and bills, actual ice company ledgers, ice tool and ice box company catalogs and advertisements are just some of the items that have been collected. Over 2,000 ice companies are represented in the collection through advertising items, ice delivery cards, ice picks, post cards, and letterheads and premiums (also known as “give aways”). Bringing together all of the items into one collection is the Lucia’s attempt to keep the memory of the iceman alive. Actual footage from 12 mm films showing the Hogan family with employees and friends harvesting ice from the local ponds makes Thom and Gail’s collection even more unique.
Originally when ice was needed, the housewife would put an ice card in the front window of the home. The Ice card would show the amount of ice that she wanted delivered. Ice cards were highly visible from the street level so the Iceman coming by the house or tenement was able to see what each customer wanted as he drove up in his wagon. This was quite important when he delivered to multi-family buildings. By knowing the total amount of ice needed by his customers BEFORE he entered the building, he was assured that the 200+ pounds of ice that he carried on his back would be completely delivered. This would save him a lot of backtracking up and down flights of stairs and out to his wagon as the ice was melting away- especially on hot summer days. Of course, sometimes the housewife forgot to remove the Ice card from the window if she didn’t want any ice. This, from what the Lucia’s have found out by talking with old-time icemen, was the cause of many a block of ice to be thrown from porches of those multi-floored tenements. No way was the ice delivery man going to carry down any ice that he didn’t have too. This action always made the kids happy. One of the favorite memories that the old timers related to the Lucia’s was that of kids getting a FREE hunk of cold refreshing natural ice from the Iceman on a hot summer day.
The Lucia’s scour the antique shops and flea markets in the Northeast looking for items to add to their ever-growing collection. The Brimfield Antique & Flea Market always has something to offer and is one of their favorite haunts. In recent years, the Internet has become an excellent source too.
Their unique collection was featured during a live telecast from their home in the Fox cable network’s “fX: The Collectible Show”. The Lucia’s were the show’s first “Super Collectors” of Ice Memorabilia. As a result of their devotion and dedication to preserving the history and memory of America’s Iceman, Gail was nominated as one of the show’s Most Passionate Collectors during year-end Award show.
Television stations, educators, historical societies, students and inquiring folks regularly contact the Lucia’s for information about this era of American life that is no longer the norm.
Stay Cool and as Grampa Hogan used to say:
“Iceman’s ice is twice as nice”