Lowell’s Ice Harvesting and the “Ice King” Daniel Gage

The recent Globe article ~ “How a Massachusetts man invented the global ice market” reminded me that Lowell with its location on the Merrimack River had it’s own ice harvesting business with talented ice cutters and ice harvesters. The name of local ice king Daniel Gage and visits from the ice man were well-known to Lowell families back into the late 19th and into the 20th century. Lowell Historical Society Curator Ryan Owen has written about the business of ice cutting in his series about past occupations on his blog “Forgotten New England” and also about local memories of visits from the ice man. Link here for “Past Occupations: Ice Cutters in Massachusetts” and here for “The Daniel Gage Ice Company of Lowell Massachusetts.”

Here is an excerpt from Ryan’s  Daniel Gage post:

 … Through a fellow board member of the Lowell Historical Society (who writes the Lowell Doughboys and More blog), I met Gavin Lambert, who shared the photograph below, as well as his mother’s memories of the ice men she remembered from growing up in Lowell in the 1940s.  She recalled Shorty, her family’s ice man, who arrived in his horse-drawn wagon with his leather shoulder shroud and ice tongs.  Shorty, as she remembered, was a friendly guy, who readily chiseled off ice splinters to give to the neighborhood kids each summer.  She remembered the wooden floor of Shorty’s ice wagon.  Although she never knew his full name or nationality, she still remembers her family’s ice man from Gage’s Ice Company to this day, almost 70 years later.

Photo Courtesy of Gavin LambertPhoto Courtesy of Gavin Lambert

Gage’s Ice of Lowell was, at one time, so well-known that the image of its ice blocks floating down the Merrimack River was considered so central to the identity of Lowell that it is memorialized in a stained glass window that sits in St. Brigid’s church in the village of Ballyknock, Ballycastle in County Mayo, Ireland.  Explaining the photograph of the window, posted at right, Gavin Lambert shares that enough people from the Jordan family left that Irish village for Lowell that the stained glass window was placed in their church in their memory.  Representing Lowell is, of course, its mills and smokestacks.  But, closer examination reveals the ice blocks floating down the Merrimack River, ice blocks belonging to Gage’s ice trade.

Do you have family stories about the ice man?