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For centuries, man used natural frozen water ice to preserve perishable products. By the 19th century the eastern US and the country of Norway were both harvesting natural ice for storage, distribution and sales, and it became known as the ice trade. As early as 1750, inventors began to conceive that it would be possible to produce ice artificially by means of mechanical devices which used vapor and compression.
By the 1850s, men in Ohio and remote Australia had set up industrial ice making machines. The effort in Ohio failed because of competition with natural ice; but in warm Australia, 115 days by ship from frigid New England, the operation was successful. By the years following the Civil War in the US, the huge urban populations of the Northeast were consuming approximately 1400 pounds of natural ice per household per year.
During the latter years of the 1800s, the natural ice trade was supplanted by commercially produced plant ice, which required the use of massive sized refrigeration machines. This led to the development of smaller insulated boxes which could be built and installed practically anywhere, and the US icebox industry was begun.