River History Museum – Lansing, Iowa

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River History Museum – Lansing, Iowa displays highlights of early Lansing’s development as a Mississippi River town including steam-boating, commercial fishing, the pearl button industry, and ice harvesting. This town of just over 1000 people offers an opportunity to understand the importance of the Mississippi River in the growth and life of the early pioneers.

The Ice Harvesting Process

The ice harvesting process was labor intensive, requiring 20-100 men for one to four weeks. It was necessary first to scrape the snow off ice that was six to thirty inches thick. Then men measured grids on the ice and horses pulled a tool that cut grooves on the grid, usually at 22" x 32" to 44" square. The next step was to cut through the grooves until the blocks broke off and float them down the cleared channel to the chute, where they were hauled up and into the ice house.

Men used breaking-off bars and one-handed crosscut ice saws to finish cutting the blocks of ice, which they floated or poled down (like a raft) to the ice house. Each block was moved up a chute with hooks to various levels as the ice house filled with layers of ice separated and surrounded by layers of sawdust supplied by lumber mills as an insulator.

The harvesting of ice was critical to keep food fresh during the warm seasons.

Located on Front Street in Lansing.

Open most weekends throughout the summer or by appointment.

Call (563)538-3843, (563)538-4864 or (563)538-4641 for more information or to schedule a tour group. 

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