The Ice Pick Cometh — Ottawa Artificial Ice Co.

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The Ice Pick Cometh — Ottawa Artificial Ice Co.
photo Adin Daigle

I saw this photo on Adin Wesley Daigle’s Facebook page and I could not tackle this item quick enough. The ice pick somehow holds great prominence in my mind. I watched my Grandmother attack her 20 by 10 freezer in the 60s that was more ice than food. Sometimes I would come downstairs early in the morning and watch her use that ice pick like her life depended on it trying to retrieve what the ice had eaten up. She would open boxes, and anything else that needed to be opened with it — always in Barbara Stanwyck style. Ice picks were sometimes used in forms of murder, and I wondered what the history was behind this item. Were any murders committed with an Ottawa Artificial Ice Co. ice pick similar to the film Eyes of Laura Mars?

January 13 at 2:51 PM  · A neat ice pick I’ve had for some time…Ottawa Artificial Ice co. Limited….haven’t found much on the company 🤔

Found by Diane Edwards–The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
27 Dec 1912, Fri  •  Page 2

Jaan Kolk posted on Adin’s timeline that The Ottawa Artificial Ice Co. plant was on the east side of Nicholas, midway between Somerset and Mann. It remained in business until the property was expropriated for the expansion of the U of O campus in 1959; however, the Rideau exchange phone number dates the ice pick to before the introduction of automated “dialing” with 5-digit numbers in 1938. Here’s an aerial photo showing the plant in 1933 (cropped from NAPL A4571_26):

Here’s an aerial photo showing the plant in 1933 (cropped from NAPL A4571_26): Jaan Kolk

When my Grandmother got an icebox in the late 30s she told me she could keep milk for a day and meat fresh for 36 hours. I remember the ice man coming in the 50s delivering ice to our home with long tongs in each hand carrying two 25-pound blocks at a time. The deliverymen began their day before dawn to ensure local shops had ice before business hours and then go to the private residences that were waiting for him.

One day I remember that there were no more drip pans to be emptied, and no more ice to be purchased. The electrical refrigerator spelled the end of the iceman and the blocks of ice that were stored in sawdust in dark places.

So why buy artificial ice than purchase regular ice? Jaan Kolk said: “Coincident with the typhoid outbreaks of 1911 and 1912, the Ottawa Artificial Ice Co. was formed to exploit the mistrust of river ice. It produced ice by artificial refrigeration of distilled water, originally, and later water from it’s own deep well. The technical expertise came from Phillip D. Lyons, who had previously run an artificial ice plant in the Caribbean; the investors were the usual suspects, with names like Ahearn, Bate, Booth.”

“Ice cutting on the Clyde River”
Adin Daigle photo

In 1913 the Ottawa Artificial Ice Co. advertised they would supply water from eight taps placed at front of their building on Nicholas St. It was advertised as ‘DOUBLE DISTILLED WATER’ piped direct from their distilling tanks. By running the Distilling plant at full capacity, nearly 5000 gallons over and above what was needed for ice could be made each day. They boasted that the water was pleasant to taste, as the air was put back into the water after it is distilled. It was advertised as a patented process and germ proof made fresh each day

The charges at the water taps were: 25c For ten gallons. 3c Per odd gallon. You were to bring your water bottles to the ICE PLANT and have them filled with the only absolutely pure water that money can buy. They insisted that if you bought spring water it could not be ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED and you paid 40c to 50c for five gallons of it, so their water and ice was supreme.

Was ice really spreading Typhoid Fever? In reality, the total number of instances of typhoid fever which had been directly traced to ice infection were remarkably few. One was in France, where a group of officers placed ice made from water polluted by a sewer in their wine and afterwards developed typhoid fever, while those of the same company not using ice escaped. A second case was in a small epidemic which occurred in those who used ice from a pond. It was found that water directly infected with typhoid feces and had flowed over. So yes, the advertising was formed to exploit mistrust of regular ice as Jaan said. But today, some articles say to avoid ice because it may have been made from unclean water. So who knows?

So how about those ice pick murders I was looking for? I am disappointed to tell you that the ice pick was only used as a threatening weapon except in the case of the Mafia’s gangsters of Murder Inc. in October of 1940.

“The bum ain’t dead yet.” To make sure, they used a meat cleaver and an Ice pick. The car with its gruesome cargo was left on a, quiet residential street. The gangsters did not know it but. Whitey Rudnick’s corpse was to contribute more to their undoing than anything the little loan shark had done when he was alive.

Okay there was another case in Montreal in 1936….

Five men and a woman will be tried for murder at the Autumn term of the Court of King’s Bench. The murder charges, being heard by Mr. Justice Philemon Cousineau. arose from the deaths of seven persons, three from illegal operations. The others were found, to have been slain with ice pick, axe and club

So I guess it’s back to Lizzie Borden for me. Except, I found this wonderful ad from Oglivy’s that used to be on Rideau Street in Ottawa.  For absolutely free- no strings or obligations whatsoever, you got a free quality ice pick, with a tempered steel blade, and smart, enamelled handle and exceptional construction throughout All you had to do was ask their floorman for one. After he showed to show you the beautiful the 1935 Hostess refrigerator. Now that was a murder of a deal!

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
01 May 1935, Wed  •  Page 10

Found by Diane Edwards–The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
27 Dec 1912, Fri  •  Page 2
The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
07 Jan 1913, Tue  •  Page 10
The Ottawa Distributors of Kelvinator Electric Refrigerators Commencing in September 1929 the Ottawa Artificial Ice Company, according to an announcement by the officials of the company.
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
24 Jan 1913, Fri  •  Page 4
The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
15 Mar 1894, Thu  •  Page 7
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
27 Apr 1923, Fri  •  Page 18
photo-Curtis Webster

Related reading

Would You Like Some Ice With that Drink?

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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