Learn with Hanford Mills

The Ice Business




Understand how primary sources can be used to learn about the past, and use primary sources to understand how ice was used by local companies.


Students will read historic letter and answer questions based on their reading



  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes
  • Class Time: 15-20 minutes


  • Explain that ice was chosen for many reasons. We can learn about the use of ice in the area around East Meredith from old letters that have been left behind.
  • Distribute copies of the Ice Business Letter. Since the letter is handwritten, the copy includes a transcription to help read the letter. You may wish to ask students to try to read the letter without looking at the transcription first.
    • Discuss what the letter is about with the class.
      Questions to ask:

    • Who wrote this letter and when?
      Answer: W.S. Pierson on October 25, 1902/li>
    • Who is the letter written to?
      Answer: D.J. Hanford and Sons – mill owners
    • What company did the writer of the letter work for?
      Answer: He was a manager at the Empire State Dairy Company
    • What is a dairy and what type of products does it handle?
      Answer: A dairy is an establishment that processes dairy products. The letter indicates it processes milk and cream
    • Why does a dairy have an ice house?
      Answer: They use the ice to refrigerate their dairy products.
    • Why do you suppose the writer wants a place to store sawdust?
      Answer: Sawdust was used as insulation in ice houses.
    • Where might he get the sawdust?
      Answer: The sawmill, which is also selling him wood for his building project..


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

NYS Learning Standards:

  • ELA 1
  • SS 4

Vocabulary & Spelling Words

    Creamery – n. an establishment where milk and cream are processed and dairy products are made. Also known as a “dairy”.

    Dairy – n. an establishment where milk and cream are processed and dairy products are made. Also known as a “creamery”.

    Hemlock – n. an evergreen tree, native to the U.S. Its wood is often used in making paper and in building construction.

    Icehouse – n. a building for storing ice.

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