Learn with Hanford Mills

Keeping Accounts




Understand how primary sources can be used to learn about the past and use primary sources to discover the cost of ice harvesting and the labor that was involved.


Students will read an account record and answer questions based on their reading.



  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
  • Class Time: 30 minutes


  • Talk to your students about the cost of ice harvesting. Even though ice occurs naturally, it still costs money to harvest it. Ice harvesters had to account for the cost of the tools, animals and people used to harvest the ice. They had to pay for ice house repairs and ice house insulation (usually sawdust).
  • Distribute copies of the Keeping Accounts Worksheet. Since the account page is handwritten, the copy includes a transcription on the back to help read the document. You may wish to ask students to try to read the account page without looking at the transcription first./li>
  • Have students read the Keeping Accounts Worksheet and answer the questions.
  • If you wish you can go over the questions and answers as a class. When discussing the adjusted gross profit, you can let your students know that the average worker at Hanford Mills earned 37 cents an hour in 1921. The adjusted gross profit is likely for the one person running this ice harvesting operation, so though he only made about 3 cents a ton, it is likely he made a decent wage for work that probably took less than a month.


  • Participation in class discussion (listening and speaking)
  • Completion of worksheet

NYS Learning Standards:

  • ELA 1
  • MST 3
  • SS 4

Vocabulary & Spelling Words

Accounts – n. a formal record of the money that is owed and incoming money relating to a business or job.

Expense – n. money paid out for something that is purchased or a job done.

Ice Harvest – n. a group effort to cut ice from a pond, lake, or river for the purpose of saving the ice to use for refrigeration.

Icehouse – n. a building for storing ice.

Income – n. money payment received for goods or services, or from other sources, such as rents or investments.

Mason – n. a person who builds structures with stone, brick, and/or cement.

Net – adj. money remaining after deductions or expenses.

Profit – n. the money surplus left after taking out the expenses of wages, rent, cost of raw materials, etc.

Sawdust – n. the tiny bits of wood that fall away when wood is sawed.

Team –n. two or more horses, oxen, or other animals harnessed together to pull a vehicle, plow, or the like.

Ton – n. a unit of weight, equal to 2000 pounds.