Saturday, January 19, 2008

Refrigerator Coined?

The preservation of ice and the economical use of it, depend on the application of principles so nearly similar, that a treatise on ice-houses ought to lead to an understanding of the construction and use of Refrigerators (this being the most appropriate term I have thought of for the machines...) Thomas Moore

A cold front is a coming... We've been pretty lucky here in New York. So far, we've had a minimal amount of snow on Long Island and the future months are looking, well, a little less chillier then those I remember as a child. Like most, we are trying to conserve this winter so when I turned down the heat last night, I wasn't too thrilled to leave my nice warm bed to enter into the "ice-box" this morning (the rest of the living area.) We don't have a very large place out here on the east end. Actually, it's quite confusing, I don't really "live" here but, I'm sure my house in PA is just as cold if not colder. I'm sure no one is visiting to hear about the weather but it does lead me to my next block of information...

Today, is the birth date, of the man who first chanted the word refrigerator. Yep, the term refrigerator was coined by a Mr. Thomas Moore who was born on this day in 1760. As in most culinary inventions, the refrigerator has quite a long and active history. I suppose you could say, it all began with nature. Before mechanical refrigeration systems were introduced, people cooled their food with ice and snow. Notice the statement below where it states, "Thomas Moore coined the term "refrigerator" and patented it." As I sifted through the many web pages concerning refrigeration, I slipped upon quite a few interesting proclamations. But, it is difficult to put my finger on the exact patent date for the refrigerator as a whole. I'm going to leave this search up to you by providing some additional links below.

In 1803, Maryland native Thomas Moore coined the term "refrigerator" and patented it, which single-handedly put a huge twist on the agricultural business. Thomas Moore lived about twenty miles outside the city of Washington, for which the village of Georgetown was the market center. On his farm were dairy cows whose milk was churned into butter and taken to market to be sold. Moore devised an icebox out of a cedar tub which was insulated with rabbit fur, filled with ice, and wrapped in a piece of sheet metal so he could transport his butter at a cooler temperature. He was on the right track, for in the warmer months of the year, Moore noticed that people would pass up his competitors butter, which had softened up and often times melted, for his butter which was wrapped up and came in individual bricks. source

As a cookbook collector, I must confess, the coolest "ice harvesting" came from this website below. If you're like me, you will really enjoy the insight revealed in the rest of the short but interesting article.

In 1860 no less an authority on Richmond’s past than Samuel Mordecai wrote: "The lovers of comfort and cool beverages are indebted to Mrs. R’s (Mary Randolph) ingenuity for the invention of the "Refrigerator," as she called it. The first one was constructed according to her plan for her own use. It was said that a shrewd Yankee who was an inmate of her house for a few days, to whom she showed it, carried the invention with him, perhaps obtained a patent, and it soon got into general use.”

She described her contrivance in her well-known 1824 cookbook, The Virginia House-Wife. Who was that “shrewd Yankee”? Was it Thomas Moore of Baltimore? He is credited with inventing the refrigerator in 1803 source

Thomas Moore was born to Quakers James and Amy Barnes Moore on January 19, 1760. He was a farmer, an engineer, an inventor, and an intimate friend of Thomas Jefferson. In a letter dated June 21, 1802, Thomas Moore invited Thomas Jefferson to view this new "refrigerator." In a patent signed by Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison, a new industry was born. Please note, I couldn't find much to validate the claim to the formation of the National Agricultural Society not even in this article that appeared in the New York Times, October 23, 1879, which of course, is after his death in 1822.

Thomas Jefferson named Thomas Moore to lay out the National Road from Cumberland to Ohio. Moore engineered the Erie Canal, the state road from Buffalo to Albany, the Aqueduct Bridge over the Potomac, and the James River & Kanawha Canal. With brothers-in-law Isaac Briggs and Caleb Bentley he laid out the mill town Triadelphia. Perhaps his greatest exploits were in agriculture. He developed new plowing and fertilizing techniques and created the National Agricultural Society. source

IMHO, Thomas Moore appears to have invented more of a thermos box which certainly could be labeled the first domestic icebox. In An Essay on the Most Eligible Construction of Ice-Houses. Also, A Description of the Newly Invented Machine Called the Refrigerator, published in 1803, Thomas Moore makes it perfectly clear that he is a farmer first "as the height of my ambition is to become a good practical farmer.."

I STATED in a publication which circulated through several newspapers in the United States, that I had no pretensions to the discovery of new principles in the construction of the Refrigerator. The particular mode of applying some before known and understood, is all I claim as my invention; the untility of which has been fully proved during the last summer.

WHAT I have to observe on the keeping of ice is merely an attempt to carry improvements already begun a step further than I have yet heard of. I have apprehended, the reason why the art has not progressed faster, is because no one has yet fully investigated the principles upon which it depends; or, if this has been done by individuals, they have not favoured the public with a knowledge thereof. This is my present object, and for reasons which will hereafter appear, I prefer going through it, before I enter on the subject of Refrigerators. excerpt

Culinary historian Alice Ross has a wonderful collection of recipes in her Hearth to Hearth article at the Journal of Antiques and Collectibles. She discusses, Ice Harvesting, The Ice Industry and Ice in the Kitchen. Eliza Leslie wrote that an icebox was a convenience "no family should be without. The icebox gave individual homes and city residences a means of keeping food cold. The ice cutting industry was one of the major business enterprises in 18th and 19th century Boston. Ice cut in New England was packed onto insulated ships and transported across the globe. Yes, a cold front is on the way and thanks to those like Thomas Moore, I don't have to go outside and begin the ice harvest.

You may be wondering why I didn't include a refrigerator recipe booklet in honor of today. Well, truth be known, they are all in PA. Well, the house warmed up quite nicely so, I took a slide over to one of my favorite blogs; The Food Company Cookbooks where Kathy just happened to share her recipe booklet Kooling with a Kelvinator. Food Company Cookbooks is the first blog I ever left a comment. I was so excited to find it then and am more than delighted to have revisited it today. Here's a glimpse:)

Could there possibly have been a more welcomed new household item than the electric refrigerator? First used commercially, then by the wealthy, this marvel of convenience started making its regular appearance in U.S. households by the early 1930s. source

Perhaps, now, I'll "bake" a refrigerator cake or how do you say; an ice-box cake:) which I found at the Smitten Kitchen. People! you must see this Wafer Wonderland Cake. Now I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy and ice is the very last thing on my mind:)

FYI: March is Frozen Food Month. I found this gem in an article published by Frozen Food Digest in March of 1955.

"A vast underground freezer warehouse carved out of solid rock near Kansas City, Kan., is opened by Inland Cold Storage Company. It has capacity for 2,500 carloads of FF, and is called the "World's Biggest Natural Icebox." source


  • 1. Refrigerator History
  • 2. Early Days of Refrigeration
  • 3. Thomas Jefferson Letter
  • 4. Maryland Firsts
  • 5. The Complete Essay of Thomas Moore (this page is difficult to read as it is in HTML format)
  • 6. The Ice King
  • 7. Ice Harvesting U.S.A
  • 8. Food Company Cookbooks
  • 9. Frederick Jones: Truck Refrigeration

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