The IcyBall – Crosley Radio Corporation’s Refrigerator for Non-Electrified Rural America

IcyBall Advertising Graphic, Popular Mechanics, August 1930

IcyBall Advertising Graphic, Popular Mechanics,
August 1930, p.27[1]

“For Farms!  For homes where ice supply is uncertain!  For camps!  For roadside stores!. . . For anyone who wants the pleasure, safety, convenience of a constant ice supply for 2 cents a day.”

 — Advertisement, Farm Mechanics, September 1928[2]


Ice - 2-cents a Day - Crosley IcyBall Advertisement, Depicts Heating Arrangement

Crosley IcyBall Advertisement Depicting the Lifting and Heating of the IcyBall Unit (Farm Mechanics, 1928,[2] Public Domain Image Courtesy of Crosley Automobile Club IcyBall Ads Page). (Click for an enlarged view.)

In the early 1900’s, methods of keeping food cool in the hot summers of the U. S. Midwest were limited.  Ice boxes were popular in cities in towns where ice delivery was available, and sometimes ice could be picked up or delivered to rural homes if they weren’t too distant from an affordable source.

In 1927, the same year the General Electric Monitor-Top Refrigerator was making home refrigeration more popular in electrified cities and towns, the Crosley Radio Corporation introduced a non-electric home refrigeration option powered by the heat of a stove burner:  The Crosley IcyBall.

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Posted in Historical Equipment and Technologies, Home Life, The Family Farm, Yesteryear Museum | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

We Get Back to that Hoe with New Strength

At age 86, Pearl Wilborn recalled her days as a wife and mother on the farm in Missouri, about 1915 into the 1950’s:

Mrs Lemuel Smith and children working in the garden

1941 photograph by Jack Delano for Farm Security Administration, Library of Congress Collection FSA 8c05499.

“I have told many things about my growing up on a farm the first 19 years of life. I’m grateful that my parents taught me to work as my next 38+ years were spent on a farm, the wife of a farmer where I learned many things first hand by experience.

“I learned the joys and rewards, and also some failures working in the ground. The pride in a nice growing garden, a nice clean green yard, a flower bed I had made all by myself. A few yellow down chickens in a pen with an old hen that had hatched the eggs I had put under her. The satisfaction of knowing I had something for my work. One little tomato seed planted will bear many tomatoes; one flower seed will have many blossoms and a tired body is rested and ready for another day’s work after a night of sleep.

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Compiling a History Database of Rural Schools

Photo of Prairie School, Gilmer Township, Adams County, Ill. 1904 photo believed to be in the public domain, made available by Joel Koch, the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois, and the Quincy Herald-Whig (19 Nov 2011). (Minor photo restoration by

Tracking down information on rural schools that have long disappeared from the local landscape can sometimes be a difficult task. The Quincy Herald Whig (19 Nov 2011) reports on the efforts of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois and Western Illinois University intern Joel Koch to develop a database of the nearly 200 one-room rural schools in the history of that county.

Some of the resources which Mr. Koch turned to in order to develop the database:

  • The existing (incomplete) list of schools archived by the Historical Society.
  • School photos in the Historical Society and local library archives.
  • Consultation with the local county retired teacher’s association (which had a partial list of schools).
  • A local genealogical society.
  • A retired school superintendent.
  • Other retired educators.
  • Photos and information from others in the community.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Missouri Ruralist Article Archive

Update, 2/24/14:
Unfortunately, the resource reviewed here has been taken offline, along with the rest of Nancy (Nansie) Cleaveland’s Laura Ingalls Wilder resources at She says she had to take down the site due to plagiarism issues with her primary research, but that she may consider returning the Ruralist articles in the future.–D

Article by Mrs A J Wilder in the Missouri Ruralist 20 Jun 1914

Article by Mrs. A. J. (Laura Ingalls) Wilder on the front page of the Missouri Ruralist, 20 Jun 1914. (Edit from Public Domain image courtesy of N. Cleaveland,

Laura Ingalls Wilder researcher Nancy Cleaveland ( has compiled Mrs. Wilder’s Missouri Ruralist articles (1911-1931), all of which are in the public domain and archived free at her website, in both article image and text transcription formats.

Typically written for an audience of her farmwomen contemporaries, the article titles suggest a wealth of commentary reflecting the theme that I love most about Mrs. Wilder’s famous Little House books: a steadfast attitude of optimism and appreciation wherever one finds oneself–a can-do determination to make the best of things. Continue reading

Posted in Home Life, Narratives and Histories, The Family Farm | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Recording and Preserving Historic Barns of Missouri & Kansas

Jeremiah Chastain Farm near Tightwad Henry County MO - Library of Congress Prints and

Barn at Jeremiah Chastain Farm near Tightwad, Henry County, Missouri (Public Domain, Photo Credit A)

Johnathan Bender, writing for The Pitch of Kansas City, reports briefly on the efforts of the Missouri Barn Alliance and Rural Network (MBARN) to document and preserve the historical significance of “the family barn”: The Missouri barn is disappearing as farmland prices soar.

The article cites a more thorough Associated Press article from Kansas City, (picked up by Rapid City Journal), which details more of MBARN’s efforts:

There is a feeling that losing those kinds of structures means we are losing a connection to a really important part of our country’s heritage,” said James Lindberg, a field director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “You would be hard pressed to find a more iconic symbol of rural America.

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Seed Company Catalogs Over the Years

1896 Landreth's Seed Catalog Cover

Photo Credit A

After Christmas, gardeners began receiving nursery seed catalogs.  Most of us can recall our parents or grandparents receiving catalogs from such familiar names as Burpee, Henry Field, Gurney, Shumway, and Stark, to mention only a few.  The colorful pictures of mammoth vegetables or beautiful flowers helped us to forget the frigid temperatures outside as we looked forward to spring.  Many years later, some of us are still receiving those same seed catalogs and visualizing productive gardens next summer.

David L. Landreth started the first seed company in Philadelphia in 1784, and he printed what is believed to be the first seed company catalog in the U.S.  Still in business today, the Landreth Seed Company introduced zinnias to the U.S. in 1798 and the first truly white potato in 1811.  Americans began to grow tomatoes after the Landreth Seed Company advertised tomatoes as the “love apple” in its catalog in 1820. Continue reading

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Accounts of the 1812 New Madrid Earthquake

New Madrid Earthquake - Woodcut Depiction

Woodcut Depiction of
the New Madrid Earthquake, 1812
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons (Public Domain))

A news item reminds us that we are at the 200th anniversary of the largest of the great 1812 earthquakes along the Mississippi Valley, this one centered near New Madrid, Missouri, for which the fault line is now named.  Accounts suggest that tremors reached far enough to sway a church bell in North Carolina and to cause tears and falling rock damage in the growth rings of a tree in the southern Rockies[i].  At New Madrid, the shifts in the terrain were so powerful that they managed to temporarily reverse the flow of the great Mississippi River. Continue reading

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