About the ice and coal company

John B. Biemiller, my great-grandfather, owned the Biemiller Ice and Coal Company. From the 1870's to the early 1900's, the company's delivery wagons brought ice and coal to Baltimore homes.

The ice was cut during the winter from the Kennebec River, in Maine, and was packed in sawdust to be brought to the company's ice house in the holds of coastal schooners. From the ice house, the ice man delivered blocks of ice to homes, where they were loaded into heavy kitchen iceboxes that chilled perishable foods. During the winter, when the ice business dropped off, the company kept busy delivering coal for furnaces and fireplaces.

The "John B. Biemiller," in a 1907 painting by S.F.M. Badger

At one point my great-grandfather bought a 1/16th share in a syndicate that was building a new schooner in Bath, Me., for the coastal trade. Because his was the largest share, the vessel was named for him. The builder's portrait of the ship (above) now hangs in my brother's house. The ship was launched in 1904 and was finally sold to foreign interests during the early years of World War I.

The American Ice Company bought out the Biemiller Ice and Coal Company shortly after the turn of the century. As far as I know, all that survives of the Biemiller Ice and Coal Company are a few pieces of letterhead; after the company was sold, my great-grandfather used the old letterhead for drafting correspondence. He made clean copies of his letters in a magnificent, flowing longhand -- downstrokes thick with black ink -- and then kept the drafts for his files. He died about 1910, and is buried in Druid Ridge Cemetery.

His great-grandson, alas, writes letters only sporadically -- even to his friends -- and never by hand.

Lawrence Biemiller
Washington, D.C.

Except where otherwise noted, text and images on this site are copyright © 2002 Lawrence Biemiller