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On this day in 1850, a doctor at the "Mansion House" in Apalachicola, Florida amazed some guests whom he had invited by serving them drinks with ice. They were amazed not because it was a dry town…..it was
not....the guests were amazed because this was Apalachicola, this was Florida, this was July…..yet here was ice. How deep could his icehouse go…..how many feet of sawdust had he needed to pile up to save these few cubes of ice?
Then the doctor (Dr. John Gorrie) further amazed his guests by bringing more ice…..he brought out whole brick-like blocks of it. The guests were stunned. How had he managed to save this much ice…..in Florida…..into July! Dr. Gorrie laughed and told them he had made the ice only yesterday. "Sure!”
they said. "You made ice in July?" "Who the hell are you…..Mother Nature with a bad calendar watch?"
Dr. Gorrie must have laughed again and told them he had found a way of compressing water and then air in a way to chill things enough to produce ice. "Wow!" said the guests "Now you can open a bar!" Dr. Gorrie looked at them strangely….."Bar?…..This is a cure for malaria!"
Dr. Gorrie had noticed that malaria (a big problem in 1850) seemed to happen near wetlands (like Apalachicola) when it was warm. So he determined it must be the hot air that caused malaria. So, if you cooled the hot air down…..you should be able to stop malaria. That night Gorrie raised enough funds to install his ice-making, anti-malaria machine at the United States Marine Hospital. The main effect was that the rooms were cooler and the patients were cooler but the "yellow fever" continued. (It would be a half century later until Walter Reed would prove that the cause was mosquitoes who thrived in the hot weather…..not the weather itself.)
Although Dr. Gorrie was disappointed at what he saw as his "failure", bartenders and patrons did find a medicinal use for the ice. To celebrate…..call Clarence Birdseye and point out how one man's failure can
be another man's fortune. Forgive the frosty response.
Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.