Ice cube trays and an ice pick
Brian Klutch

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The original drink chillers came from frozen lakes, harvested and delivered to families whose offspring would someday mold it into tiny dinosaurs. Here are the highlights of its trip:

Ice cube trays and an ice pick
Brian Klutch

(1) THE FUTURE is clear

Transparent ice takes time. You either carve the clear center of a huge block or use insulation to slowly solidify so the water comes out crystal.

(2) 2000s: Going soft

Slick silicone has a low coefficient of friction and a pliable nature. Both let you create otherwise impossible-to-release shapes with ease.

(3) 1980s: Topping it

Modern plastics don’t crack as easily as the old stuff, but the genius award goes to lidded trays: You can stack them before the water sets.

(4) 1960s: Plastics

Injection-molded polymers changed every industry, ice included. Trays graduated from skin-chilling metal to twistable polypropylene and polyethylene.

(5) 1930s: DIY Cubes

With the advent of refrigeration, you could freeze your own ice in aluminum trays; the metal warmed as it left the freezer, releasing cubes easily.

(6) MID-19TH CENTURY: Early Ancestors

Antique solid water came as giant blocks to chill your insulated icebox. For a frosty sarsaparilla, you’d chip the ol’ block with a sharp pick.

Want to read an article that’s just 47 amazing novelty ice cube trays? Right this way.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2017 issue of Popular Science.