Advertisement for Watkins and Sparrow, Ice Importers 22 March 1853, Sydney Morning Herald 22 March 1853, p.3

Advertisement for Watkins and Sparrow, Ice Importers 22 March 1853, Sydney Morning Herald 22 March 1853, p.3

Welcome back to the Dictionary on 2ser radio in 2017! This week Lisa & Nic talked about ice…

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We’ve been in heatwave conditions lately, and there is nothing like an icy cold drink to quench your thirst.

We didn’t always have refrigerators, and even the mechanical production of ice was very difficult. So a cold drink on a summer’s day in the 19th century was a rare and beautiful thing. Would you believe, there was once an international trade in frozen water (natural ice)!!!!

We have a great entry in the Dictionary of Sydney on Sydney’s first ice by Nigel Isaacs. And it includes some fabulous advertisements and images.

Ice first arrived in Sydney on 16 January 1839 after a voyage of four months and five days from Boston. About 250 tons arrived, although reportedly 400 tons was sent – the rest had melted on the journey. For six years (1839-1840 and 1853-1856) natural ice kept Sydneysiders and their food cool during summer, introducing them to such delights as ‘iced sherry cobblers’ and ‘iced brandy smashers’ as well as iced lemonade and soda water.

In 1853 the ambitious merchants Frederick Watkins & Walter Sparrow informed the public through the Sydney Morning Herald that they had introduced into the Australian market “one of the greatest luxuries in a hot climate, namely a cargo of the best quality Boston ice.”

They went on to expound the delights and benefits of ice. Its liberal use in water “imparts a liveliness not previously possessed”. “Those who have already experienced the grateful influence of its use, in the manufacture of Ice cream, the hardening of butter, the cooling of the various kinds of beverages, viz., water, wines, beer, lemonade, soda water, fruits, &c, &c, will not require much persuasion to avail of the present opportunity, and those who have not, should not let it pass unheeded.”

It was extremely popular in 1855 when on one January day the thermometer hit 44 degrees Celsius.

But for the savvy entrepreneurs who gambled their fortunes in a highly risky business, we would not have fridges and freezers in every home or readily available cool drinks and ice creams. Ice brought dramatic improvements in food hygiene, enabled fresh and frozen food exports and led to the development of new industries such as the thermal insulation used in today’s buildings and appliances.

When the ice trade with Boston suddenly stopped, it was not because of a fall in interest but because advances in technology permitted the manufacture of ice closer to home. From 1857, manufactured ice traveled to Sydney by ship from Melbourne but from 1864 the Sydney Ice Company’s works, located on West Street, Darlinghurst, provided a local source, free from the vagaries of transport or weather.

Click here to go the Sydney’s First Ice in the Dictionary of Sydney

And in case you are wondering what is in a Sherry Cobbler, here’s a recipe from page 41 of the Australian Town and Country Journal, from Saturday 24 Dec 1898. Another list of popular summer drinks (including a Cherry Cobbler) and their ingredients published on page 530 or the Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 24 September 1881. And this advertisement from page 4 of the Sydney Morning Herald on 13 November 1951 gives us a hint of what a Brandy Smasher may have held. Isn’t Trove wonderful?!

Listen to Lisa & Nic here and tune in to 2SER Breakfast with Nic Healey on 107.3 every Wednesday morning at 8:15-8:20 am to hear more from the Dictionary of Sydney.  

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