Gorrie Ice Machine, Patent Model

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
Object Type
Patent Model
date made
patent date
Gorrie, John
place made
United States: Florida
associated place
United States: Louisiana, New Orleans
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
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Industry & Manufacturing
Bulletin 173
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I understand that the unit John Gorrie built had its problems with leakage which hampered its productivity. Also his invention was not necessarily used in producing refrigerated air, but that he used the iced produced by his patent, by putting it in buckets to cool the air in the rooms or room. This was done by putting holes in the buckets and letting the ice melt, and air would pass through the dripping cold water caused by the melted ice and in turn would cool the air in the room..(would you expand on this). Also would you give me an indication of how big the machine was and if possible how much ice it produced each day. Went to Apalachacola three weeks ago and the museum had been closed. I was very disappointed. This would help my research. Thanks.
John Gorrie was not from New Orleans, but from South Carolina originally. He moved to Apalachicola, Florida where he became the town's physician and where he invented the first machine to produce artificial ice.

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