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Int'l Assoc. of Refrigerated Warehouses marks 100 years of service to industry.

Int'l. Assoc. of Refrigerated Warehouses Marks 100 Years of Service to Industry

As the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) celebrates its centennial, we have taken a good look around. We have researched our past and envisioned our future. From this inspection, many things have been learned about our industry and the association. During this anniversary year, we plan to share much of this history and vision with the global food industry.

When 16 warehousemen sat down together on Oct. 15, 1891, at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Chicago to form an association that would represent and service the public warehousing industry, they surely did not realize that an evolution of their creation would be an organization representing a tremendous worldwide industry. Nor is it likely that they took time to reflect on the early history of the cold storage industry. What would they have discussed if they had taken a look back?

The history of refrigerated warehousing and food preservation dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who discovered the chilling effect of evaporation -- the principle on which most refrigerating equipment operates today. Porous clay vessels were filled with water and put in the shade, where breezes evaporated moisture on the outside of the container and the water was cooled, sometimes to temperatures low enough to form ice. Also, ancient man brought snow from the mountains to cool food and drink.

The storage of natural ice in ice cellars or ice houses is said to have been practiced as early as 1100 BC by the Chinese. The technique was also used in the Middle Ages by the nobles of Constantinople. From there it spread into Europe, where by the 1700s it became a standard feature of the great houses of the countryside. Many ice houses still exist in Scotland, two of the most notable being in the grounds of mansion houses at Gilmerton and Haddington outside Edinburgh.

George Washington, the first American President, used his cellar for cool storage. In January of 1785 he built a dry well under his summer house and also one in his new cellar. He filled both with ice. They were used for holding wine, meat and other articles. Later he erected an ice house.

The consumption of ice in the 1800s was quite large. The city of New York alone used 12,000 tons in 1843. This increased to 100,000 tons in 1856, and to over a million tons by 1879.

In 1861, Thomas S. Mort established what is believed to be the world's first cold storage warehouse in Darling Harbor, Australia. This facility was used primarily for freezing meat.

There seems to be some differences of opinion as to when the first cold storage plant was established in the United States, but most of the differences apparently boil down to the type of refrigeration used. One source reports that the first commercial cold storage business in the USA was established in 1865 in New York City. This facility, which used natural ice and salt as the refrigerant, was reportedly constructed and owned by A. and E. Robins, a large dealer in poultry and game.

Another source states that the first cold storage installation using mechanical refrigeration was made in Boston in 1881, and operations using ammonia were built a year later in St. Louis, Missouri, and in 1889 in Chicago. According to yet another source, the first warehouse in America refrigerated with liquid ammonia and brine was built in 1890; the location was not specified.

Dr. John Gorrie is credited with the first ice machine patented in the United States in 1851. The first public demonstration of his machine took place in Apalachicola, Florida, on Bastille Day, July 14, 1850, at a party held by a French cotton buyer, Monsieur Rosan.

In France in the 1850s, Ferdinand Carre invented absorption refrigeration, and most early refrigeration systems until the early 1900s were of this type.

The American Civil War had an important influence on the use of machinery for making ice. Cut off from the North's supply of pond ice, the Southern states were forced to start manufacturing their own. They used absorption machines of the Carre type, and this greatly increased public awareness and acceptance of "artificial" ice.

During the last 25 years of the 19th Century, such refrigeration machinery found its industrial applications. The frozen food industry, which was to become such an important customer of public refrigerated warehouses, can be said to have had its commercial beginnings in the late 1800s.

Cold storage was big news at the 1893 World's Fair held in Chicago, where a cold storage and ice making pavilion was built. It had 700,000 cubic feet (20,000 cubic meters) of cold storage space, ice making capacity of about 90 tons per day, an ice skating rink and a display of refrigerating machinery. The specific purpose of this plant was to provide cold storage for food supplies used by restaurants on the grounds, and ice for refreshment counters.

An impelling motive for the development of the cold storage industry in the United States was the growth of its cities. During the colonial period, 96% of the population lived on self-sustaining farms. By 1926, the farm population fell to 26% of the national total. Today, that number is only 2%.

By the early 1900s, worldwide interest in refrigeration had reached the point where the First International Congress of Refrigeration was held in 1908. The cold storage business continued to grow and prosper through the 20th Century. Both World Wars had a tremendous effect on the industry and fueled the opportunities for the frozen food industry.

Clarence Birdseye's important experiments and discoveries took place after World War I. The Second World War put many demands on the cold storage industry that set the stage for many new challenges and new developments for the public refrigerated warehousing industry. It was during these postwar years that a young frozen food industry took off. Warehouse operators responded with new services and facilities.

Through all the changes in agriculture, food manufacturing and distribution, the public refrigerated warehouse industry has grown to meet the needs of the food industry. Frozen food production in the USA grew to 27.5 billion pounds in 1989, while public refrigerated warehouse space expanded to 1.2 billion cubic feet.

By 1990 IARW membership had climbed to 282 companies representing 963 warehouses operating 1.7 billion cubic feet.

In spite of the development of new food preservation methods, such as freeze drying, aseptic packaging, etc., freezing and chilling remain commercially viable methods of food preservation and indicate a bright future for refrigerated warehousing.

With a steadily growing global population, undoubtedly the use of refrigeration for food preservation will increase correspondingly. In ten years' time there will be more than six billion people in the world, and over 90% of the increase will take place in lesser developed countries. Already today some 65% of the population is living in those areas, and by the year 2010 it is estimated to be more than 85%.

All signs bode well for the world food business and the industry that has grown alongside of it with one purpose in mind -- service.

J. William Hudson, IARW President
COPYRIGHT 1991 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Warehousing World
Author:Hudson, J. William
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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