Ice is sold in Seattle for the first time on May 13, 1872.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 11/04/1998
  • Essay 191
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On about May 13, 1872, the Puget Sound Ice Company begins selling imported ice at three cents a pound in Seattle and in Olympia, adding Victoria the following month. Captain Marshall Blinn imports the ice (300 tons) from Nevada via San Francisco. Within a month, using this ice, L. Reinig began selling the first ice cream in Seattle. When the ice sold out two years later, the Puget Sound Ice Company went out of business.

Coal and Ice

In April 1872, the bark Osmyn brought this unique cargo to Puget Sound. The Osmyn made regular trips between Puget Sound and San Francisco. On southbound trips her main cargo was some 800 tons of coal from the Lake Washington Coal Mines (located in the King County town that became known as Newcastle), plus a deck-load of lumber from Puget Sound sawmills. On her northbound trip she transported goods and supplies for Puget Sound residents, retail shops, and wholesale establishments.

In April 1872, the Osmyn left San Francisco with an unusual cargo of 300 tons of ice. Capt. Marshall Blinn, a Puget Sound resident, conceived the idea to mine ice from near the "Truckee River" in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Nevada. The Central Pacific Railroad shipped the ice to San Francisco where it was loaded on the Osmyn.

While the ice was in transit, Blinn's firm, the Puget Sound Ice Company, constructed an icehouse on the Yesler Wharf located at the foot of Mill Street (renamed Yesler Way). To insulate the building, double walls were built about 18 inches apart and filled with sawdust acquired from Henry L. Yesler's sawmill. The Osmyn delivered its cargo to Olympia first and then proceeded to Seattle to unload the ice.

On May 13, 1872, the first advertisement appeared in The Weekly Intelligencer headed "KEEP COOL!" The advertisement announced that the Puget Sound Ice Company offered ice for three cents a pound. The ad stated that W. W. Baker headed Seattle branch and that orders should be placed at Coombs & Pumphrey's bookstore. The Puget Sound Ice Company's ice wagon immediately started making six days per week deliveries throughout the town. Saloons were especially pleased with this new product. A few days later this "great luxury" became the basis of a new business in town: the ice cream business.

In early June 1871, the Puget Sound Ice Company established an ice-house in Victoria. It took the ice company two years to sell out this initial shipment. Apparently sales did not meet expectations and the company ceased operations.


Thomas Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897," (typescript, dated 1900-1901, Special Collections, University of Washington Library), 219. J[ames] Willis Sayre, This City of Ours (Seattle: J. W. Sayre, 1936), 81; The Weekly Intelligencer (Seattle), April 1, 1872, p. 3; May 13, 1872, p. 2, 3; May 20, 1872, p. 3.

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