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History Bytes

History Bytes: Ice Harvesting

As Newport emerges from this year’s ice age, the fresh water ponds will start to thaw. During the coldest years of the last century, the ponds provided ice for Aquidneck Island residents. Cut into 24 x 30 inch blocks, the ice was hauled into large ice houses, packed in straw and piled five layers deep. Trucks and small railcars transported the ice to stores and houses year round, which was sold for ten cents a block.

Above: A c.1900 photo of a Middletown ice house from the NHS collections.

History Bytes: Easton’s Beach Pavilion

When the temperature finally rises above freezing, thoughts of the beach will come to mind. The Pavilion at Easton’s Beach was built in 1887 by the firm of Peabody & Stearns. In 1902, with the help of private donors, the facilities were enlarged and assumed the appearance of a Mediterranean Villa, complete with bath houses, restaurants, a merry-go-round and roller coaster. All buildings were swept away during the Hurricane of 1938. Most of the present structures date to 1992.

Above: Color postcard of Easton’s Beach, circa 1930.

P5604 Easton’s Beach Pavilion, Peabody & Stearns, circa 1900.

P9780 “Refreshment Stand & Dairy Bar [Newport Creamery]”; taken by City of Newport’s Recreation Department, 1957.

History Bytes: Inoculation

The spread of measles is in the news and the use of vaccinations continues to be controversial, just as it was over 200 years ago.

In 1817 David Melville of Newport had his children vaccinated for smallpox and recorded the event in the family bible, along with births, marriages and deaths. Some considered inoculation a necessary interference with God’s will and worthy of recording in bibles. It was also a written record to prevent future unneeded treatments.

The smallpox vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in England and brought to America by Newport native Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse after 1796.

Above: Family record from an early 19th century bible that shows birth and inoculation dates, from the NHS collection.