What do Wenham Lake near Ipswich, Massachusetts and a man named John in Apalachicola, Florida have in common?
This statue of John Gorrie was given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by Florida in 1914. A physician, scientist, inventor and humanitarian, Gorrie is considered the father of refrigeration and air-conditioning.
Before Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, Florida developed a process for artificial refrigeration the ice from Wenham Lake near Ipswich, Massachusetts was an important source for keeping foods cold. The ice was harvested, packed in sawdust and transported by ship around the world. Rail cars, shipping produce from Florida to Chicago or New York, were packed in a type of portable ice chest but unlike today, passenger trains took precedence over freight rains and the ice melted if the train was delayed.
Years after Gorrie’s development, refrigerated rail cars became more dependable and the national distribution of food began with the completion of the transcontinental railroad, but refrigerated rail cars did more to insure quality and variety. By the 1880’s railcars fitted with refrigeration brought a variety of foods from across the country to and from the Sunshine State, changing the diet and dining table of Floridians forever.