Frozen Kingdom: Commerce and Pleasure in the Maine Water

Maine Maritime Museum honor’s winter’s chill and the ice industry that started it all

NOVEMBER 2019 | 97 Mrs. Jane King, a prominent Virginia-based ice company, harvested its ice from the Kennebec River.
An aerial view of Weeks Ice House in Pittston, Maine.

Winter in Maine is notoriously harsh. Cold winds whip through trees and sear exposed skin, and serene snowy scenes seem to be most enjoyable from the inside, looking out. But for many, the winter brings something more than subzero temperatures and snowfall. With the onset of the colder months comes an entirely new environment—one where people have adapted their industries and recreations to make the most of the year’s darkest days.

“The brutal Maine winter has provided the natural resources and setting to create industries and pastimes, from ice harvesting to ice boating,” a press release from the Maine Maritime Museum states. In their newest exhibition, Frozen Kingdom: Commerce and Pleasure in the Maine Winter, Maine Maritime Museum looks at Maine’s long history of ice trade, which, “at the height of the market in the 1880s and 1890s, was more valuable than California’s gold production,” the press release states. Frozen Kingdom will also profile the stories of Maine’s “Ice Kings”—the people who pioneered winter commerce. Other topics explored in the exhibition are ice boating and ice fishing.

Through historic documents, photographs, and artifacts, Maine Maritime Museum hopes to transport visitors through time. “I think in particular our visitors will be surprised by the global reach of Maine’s winter industries,” says chief curator Christopher Timm. “Before refrigeration, ice from the Kennebec River was hawked from Queens to Calcutta.”

Frozen Kingdom: Commerce and Pleasure in the Maine Winter opens on November 16 and will be on view until April 26, 2020. Maine Maritime Museum celebrates Maine’s maritime heritage and culture, seeking to educate the community about Maine’s vital role in regional and global maritime industries.

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