There’s a reason ice machines have become just as synonymous with hotels as beds.

By Meghan Overdeep
April 4, 2019
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Like a Bible in the nightstand, a fresh set of sheets, and a bar of hand soap, guests expect to find hallway ice machines in American hotels.

Sure, having unlimited access to free ice is nice, but it’s hardly a necessity. So why is it that ice machines have become just as synonymous with hotels as, well, beds?

According to Slate, the idea of ubiquitous free ice started with Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inn. Wilson was reportedly frustrated by the additional fees other hotels charged for ice, and decided that at his hotels, ice would be free for all guests. The original Holiday Inn, which he opened in 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee, had the unique distinction of being the first hotel to offer free ice to guests via ice machine.  As Wilson continued to open more Holiday Inns, each one equipped with ice machines, the trend spread across the nation.

But why ice?

America simply loves ice more than any other country—a love affair that began when industrial-size ice machines were introduced in the 1890s. Back then, hotels were among the only businesses to readily provide ice, but until Wilson came along, you’d have to ring up room service for it, and it certainly wasn’t free. Now, ice machines are everywhere!

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So, the next time you venture into the hallway of your hotel to fill up your ice bucket, remember to thank Mr. Kemmons Wilson for his pioneering ways.

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