Hurstville Museum & Gallery has recently undertaken an audio descriptions project for a number of collection items to help increase the accessibility of the collection. This entry is part of the project.
Before the invention of electrical freezers, ice chests were domestic appliances used to keep food cool and fresh in Australia. The freestanding wooden cabinets, lined with galvanised iron and often insulated with materials such as cork or charcoal, were commonly used between the 1890s and 1950s. With brands such as ‘Polar’, ‘Frigid’ and ‘Freezesi’ ice chests were an essential item in many households.
The first ice had been shipped to Australia in 1839. It arrived in Sydney and had been ‘harvested’ from North American lakes and carried through the tropics in an insulated sailing ship, the Tartar. It was until the 1860s that ice was manufactured in Australia with Sydney’s Ice Company works in Darlington provided a fresh local source. The commercial manufacture of ice made the frozen meat trade possible, as well as the home delivery of ice for use in use in ice chests.
The ice chest was invented by an American farmer and cabinetmaker named Thomas Moore in 1802. The “Freezesi” range of ice chests were manufactured in Australia in the first half of the twentieth century. They were first advertised in Australian newspapers in 1914 and sold as late as the early 1950s. Their design allowed perishable foods to be stored for longer than previously and without the need for preservation processes such as smoking, drying, or canning. Sold throughout New South Wales, the Inverell Times praised this brand for ‘fresh cool foods on the hottest days and icy cold drinks…[the] dependable ‘Freezesi’ ice chest provides these comforts for the small outlay of sixpence per day for ice’.
By the late 1930s, ice chests were being replaced by a new form of kerosene refrigeration and freezers. Queensland Country Life noted in 1939 that ‘modern science has given to the country housewife home refrigeration without the aid of the ice- man, gas or electric power…in effect it is the means by which thousands of households are supplied with hard butter, cold drinks and scores of chilled and frozen delicacies‘.
Find out more about this item on e-hive, our collection database.
 ‘1839- First ice in Sydney’, Australian Food History timeline, https://australianfoodtimeline.com.au/ice-trade-sydney/#:
 Isaacs, N., ‘Sydney’s first ice’, The Dictionary of Sydney, on-line, https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/sydneys_first_ice
 The Inverell Times, advertising, Mon 13 Dec 1937, p.4 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/185373455?
 ‘A Kerosene Flame that Freezes!’, Queensland Country Life, Thurs 9 Nov 1939, p. 9 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/97057028?