Gorrie Ice Machine, Patent Model

This model was submitted to the U.S. Patent Office with the application for the patent issued to John Gorrie, of New Orleans, Louisiana, May 6, 1851, no. 8080.
The model represents the first patent for a mechanical refrigerating or ice-making machine issued by the United States Patent Office. It is of additional interest in that the inventor successfully employed ice and cooled air in the treatment of tropical diseases, and for his work in this connection and the invention of the ice machine he is honored by a statue placed in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol by the State of Florida.
The machine was designed “to convert water into ice artificially by absorbing its heat of liquefaction with expanding air.” The model, made largely of wood, is diagrammatic only. It consists of a double-acting compressor cylinder and a double acting work or expanding cylinder, the pistons of which are connected to a crankshaft designed to be turned by a steam engine or other prime mover not shown. The air compressed in the compressor cylinder was cooled by the immersion of the cylinder in cold water, the injection of cold water into the cylinder and by passing the air through a worm immersed in a tub of water. The compressed air was led to a receiver and thence to the expanding cylinder, which was surrounded by a cistern of “uncongealable” liquid. The expansion or air absorbed heat from the liquid, which was circulated to a worm in a freezing tub where the liquid absorbed heat from water in the tub causing it to freeze.
This description comes from the 1939 Catalog of the Mechanical Collections of the Division of Engineering United States Museum Bulletin 173 by Frank A. Taylor.
Currently not on view
Object Name
patent model, ice machine
date made
patent date
Gorrie, John
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brick (base material)
model - from catalog card: 17 in x 14 in x 18 in; 43.18 cm x 35.56 cm x 45.72 cm
overall: 17 1/4 in x 17 1/2 in x 16 1/4 in; 43.815 cm x 44.45 cm x 41.275 cm
place made
United States: Florida
associated place
United States: Louisiana, New Orleans
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Industry & Manufacturing
Bulletin 173
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Bulletin 173
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Related Publication
Frank A. Taylor. Catalog of the Mechanical Collections of the Division of Engineering United States National Museum, Bulletin 173

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.