Refrigeration is nothing new. Ice has been used to keep food and drink cold for centuries. Even modern refrigeration methods have been around for more than a century. For example, from 1870, breweries aggressively employed large-scale refrigeration technologies, such as absorption machines, to keep their products cold [source: Krasner-Khait].
Home refrigeration, on the other hand, came a little later. The icebox was a handy home appliance. You simply placed a block of ice over a sealed compartment, and your perishables would keep for about two days.
The first mechanical refrigerator went on display at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, and the first household unit was marketed 10 years later [source: National Academy of Engineering]. These devices slowly won out over the ice box for a simple reason: They could preserve perishables for a week.
Before the mechanical refrigerator caught on, the need to feed the ice box was one of many social tasks associated with keeping house. Households would hang out a sign that said, "Ice Today," and the ice wagon would stop. In the course of the day, you would meet the ice man, the milk man, the grocer and the butcher. But with the wide adoption of electric refrigerators, the ice men went out of business, and the job of keeping house became a little more isolated.
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