Ice pick holder was once a necessity, now a novelty
The first time I saw the flat brown paper box on the auction table, I picked it up to find out what was inside. I’m always curious about vintage items still in their boxes, because most are not. They were made to be used, and that’s what most people did with them.
The box held an ice pick and coupon book holder, which I suspect was quite useful in their day when ice boxes were made of wood and folks waited for the ice man to cometh with their supply of ice. Interestingly, one of the other items for sale at the auction was a metal toy truck with “ICE” printed on the side and four horses at the ready.
The front of the box was classic: It showed a woman in early 20th-century dress and apron standing in front of her ice box – the door slightly ajar – and reaching for an ice pick from a holder. At the top left of the cover was an enlarged holder with a coupon book tucked inside.
Taking the holder from the box, I found that it was made of thin metal painted white that had a few chips, and it looked new and unused. It bore the inscription: “For Service. I.M. Hunsicker Ice. Souderton, PA. BELL 25-R2.” The reference to Bell, I assumed, was the phone number.
I could think of no reason to buy the ice pick and coupon holder – I wasn’t even sure what kind of coupon it would hold – so I passed it by. But as I waited for what seemed an interminable time for the auctioneer to get to something I actually wanted to buy, I found myself returning to the holder. Finally, I decided that it was a nifty little item that hopefully no one else wanted and I could get for a few bucks. I figured that I could hang it on a wall to hold ball point pens or pencils. Or pair it with the Coca Cola ice pick that I had at home.
Although the holder had a practical purpose, it was also used as advertising for the Hunsicker ice company in the same way the ice pick reminded folks to drink Coke.
I’m not sure when the holder was manufactured, but I found a blue one similar to it that was patented in 1923. That’s no guarantee, however, that it was actually made that year. Another site dated it around 1920 and was selling it at a horrendously high price. A 1925 newspaper ad showed them selling for 10 cents each or 3 for 25 cents.
Another site noted that the holder was placed on a wall to hold two ice picks and ice coupons.
The holder was used at a time when folks needed a pick to chip ice in their ice box, which was first manufactured in the 19th century. The ice box gave folks an easier way to keep their food cold. It was usually made of oak or walnut, and the inside was insulated with various types of materials. As the ice melted in its compartment, the water drained into a container below. Bob’s Collection of Small Ice Tools on the web showed all manner of tools that were available to chip, shred, crush, pick and hook ice.
When electric refrigerators became available to those who could afford them around the turn of the 20th century, ice boxes started to lose their way. The refrigerators became more available during the 1920s, and by the 1950s they made ice boxes extinct.
With the ice box in the home, the ice man arrived – first in a horse and carriage and later in a truck – with a large block of ice from an icehouse. He broke it into a smaller piece depending on how much the household wanted. Ice companies sold coupons to customers who used them to pay the ice man after the delivery. This way, he didn’t have to carry cash or make change, according to the website of Delta Ice Co. in Arkansas. The coupon books appeared to be about the size of a checkbook but perhaps not as wide.
I bought the holder but not for the few bucks I had hoped for. One other auction-goer was just as determined as me to get it.