The History of Ice Cube Trays

Stacked ice cube trays in a freezer

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It is not known for certain who invented the first ice cube tray, a refrigerator accessory that can make and remake small uniform ice cubes.

Yellow Fever

In 1844, American physician, John Gorrie, built a refrigerator to make ice to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. Some historians think that Doctor Gorrie may have also invented the first ice cube tray since it was documented that his patients were also receiving iced drinks.

DOMELRE—the Refrigerator That Inspired Ice Cube Trays

In 1914, Fred Wolf invented a refrigerating machine called the DOMELRE or DOMestic ELectric REfrigerator. The DOMELRE was not successful in the marketplace, however, it did have a simple ice cube tray and inspired later refrigerator manufacturers to include ice cube trays in their appliances as well.

During the 1920s and '30s, it became common for electric refrigerators to come with a freezer section that included an ice cube compartment with trays.

Ejecting Ice Cube Trays

In 1933, the first flexible stainless steel, all-metal ice tray was invented by Guy Tinkham, the vice-president of General Utilities Manufacturing Company. The tray flexed sidewise to eject the ice cubes. Tinkham's invention was named the McCord ice tray and cost $0.50 in 1933.

Flexing the tray cracked the ice into cubes corresponding to the division points in the tray, and then forced the cubes up and out. Pressure forcing the ice out is due to the 5-degree draft on both sides of the tray.

Modern Ice

Later, various designs based on the McCord were released, aluminum ice-cube trays with a removable cube separator and release handles. They were eventually replaced by molded plastic ice cube trays.

Today, refrigerators come with a variety of ice cube making options that go beyond trays. There are internal automatic icemakers and also icemakers and dispensers built into refrigerator doors.