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The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story
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The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  130 ratings  ·  27 reviews
On February 13, 1806, the brig Favorite left Boston harbor bound for the Caribbean island of Martinique, with a cargo that few imagined would survive the month-long sea voyage. Packed in hay in the hold were large chunks of ice harvested from a frozen Massachusetts lake. This was the first venture of a young Boston merchant, Frederic Tudor, who imagined he could make a for...more
Hardcover, 254 pages
Published January 8th 2003 by Hyperion
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Jacob
November 2011

This is what Gavin Weightman wants you to believe: in 1805, Frederick Tudor and his brother William had a brilliant idea: ice. Specifically, selling it--in the summer, in the South, in New Orleans, in Cuba and the Caribbean, in Britain and British India and all sorts of places where, before artificial refrigeration, ice was rare or difficult to make.

It was an absurd idea at the time, but Frederick tried it anyway--and, over the next several decades, he succeeded. Despite early hard...more
Daniel
This is another history book that I read years ago. I was most impressed by the fact that an entire industry--with a specialized, seasonal work force that used specialized tools and techniques--was built around the harvest and transport of block ice to far-away temperate countries that did not have any natural ice of their own. The effort that the Tudor brothers put into this endeavor is astounding--and so, too, is the fact that few transactional records from the period exist, making it nigh imp...more
Joan
The title of this book caught my eye on a list of books. It is about Frederic Tudor who started shipping ice to the West Indies from Boston in 1806. He was the first person to see the potential to make money by shipping ice harvested from ponds around Boston during the winter to climates where harvesting ice was impossible due to warm winter conditions. His struggles to find investors, to find ways to preserve the ice during shipping, and convince people to buy ice made this an interesting read....more
Shelli
I remember being assigned books like this - nonfiction, historical accounts of obscure things that no one really knew they cared about until they read it, if they read it - in my history and geography classes. I didn't usually read the assignment. Usually a summary or something to allow me to pass the test on it, and to move on. No one mid-semester has time to read a full-length book on something like the Frozen Water Trade.

But now that I'm graduated, I have time to pick up such books. I just n...more
Jason
Modern life has so many luxuries that we tend to notice them by their absence not by their presence. Comfortable fabrics, ease of transportation, computer scheduling, mass communication and onwards have at times created the assumption that the masses demand a product, and the smart classes get together, solve the problem and within a few years industry and society are aided and life moves on. What is often given less attention is the creation of a new want, where it did not previously exist, nor...more
Jack Kirby and the X-man
Everyone's heard of seemingly crackpot ideas of towing icebergs to warmer climes - grand claims are made, then nothing ever comes of the idea.

Well Frederic Tudor managed (eventually) to create a whole industry around (essentially) this idea. Instead of icebergs (except for one notable exception) his source of ice were the freshwater lakes around Boston - and instead of just attaching a towing rig he transported the ice, well insulated, in the holds of ships. The aim was to provide the tropics (W...more
Jacob
The trade in New England lake and river ice that began in the early 19th century and expanded exponentially to include ports in India, before artificial refrigeration eliminated the trade in the 20th century, is an intriguing history. Keep in mind I work in the shipping industry and have a biased interest in works of this kind. However Weightman does a good job of carrying this story in succint fashion, sprinkling interesting details throughout without becoming bogged down in a slough of factoid...more
Hannah
Before I read this book I had never really thought about ice. Or refrigeration, or what people did about preserving food before refrigeration. And it had never occured to me that ice would have been shipped across oceans to provide cold storage as early as the 19th century. This book provides an amazing glimpse into an oft-forgotten moment in history, when one man had a crazy idea that spawned an industry. The author points out that it was a little bit like the invention of radio: there was no p...more
Katie
I really enjoyed this book. It was pretty fast paced for a historic nonfiction, which is probably because it is more of a biography than a history. I still found it very enjoyable. The author was very entertaining and his enthusiasm really shined through the whole book. I loved that he added the postscript (or "epilogue") at the end describing his own visit and disappointment on visiting Fresh Pond where the trade really started. I know the feeling :) Its amazing to think that this trade existed...more
Kay
Genesis of the American "Ice Habit

Gavin Weightman's exhaustively researched book on a little-known chapter in American trade history had promise but fell short of the narrative such an uncommon subject deserved. The central figure, Frederic Tudor, was less remarkable than the novel enterprise he initiated, unfortunately. I found the meticulous recounting of Tudor's life and his "riches to rags to riches" saga of less interest than the transformation of consumer tastes and habits, particularly in...more
Elaine
This book was fascinating to me because my native city New Orleans benefitted tremendously from the ingenuity of these businessmen who figured out how to bring ice into hot climates before electricity.
Michael
This history of the now forgotten frozen water trade is a real page turner. Like most people, I had never previously heard about the very profitable trade in cutting blocks of ice out of ponds and rivers in Boston and Maine and then supplying them to the Caribbean, the South, India, even to Jakarta (Batavia) in Indonesia. Of course, this story takes places before the age of artificial refrigeration, which made the trade obsolete. But while it lasted, what an amazing industry! And what an amazing...more
Holly
This book is about a fascinating chapter in America's industry. It's a nonfiction account of how ice was "harvested" from ponds in Boston and shipped to parts of the southern US, the Caribbean and as far as India. It's a great topic which very few people are aware of. I had no idea of the extensive nature of the ice trade in the 19th century through to the early 20th century when refrigeration finally dawned. Living in the Boston area, I was pleased to find that Boston had been the hub of its in...more
Julia
I don't have the slightest idea what it was that compelled me to read this book, but I guess I'm glad I did it. It never really occured to me that people didn't always have ice, obvious as that seems. This guy was seriously crazy, got arrested for outstanding loans multiple times, and lost everything more than once- but he kept on keeping on until people realized that ice is cool (omg. no pun intended). Also, who knew that ice packed in sawdust lasts longer? I did not. You might have. But, you'r...more
Pbwritr
Fascinating history of the development of cutting, selling, shipping, and distributing ice, beginning in the early 1800s by Frederic Tudor, a young man of great vision and even greater belief in himself despite the obstacles he encountered for decades. He died a very wealthy man with the ice trade established all over the world as well as America, with many other companies and individuals involved in the industry, changing the way people perceived how to drink their drinks--tepid or cold.
Angela
Concentrates on the American effort, specifically New England effort to provide natural refrigeration to the world. Interestingly, Norway had a major industry complete with miles of wooden tressels to allow glacier blocks to employ gravity to get to shipyards and head for Africa/ ALgeria. My father spoke of the local efforts on Minnesota lakes when he was a boy to harvest ice for personal use as well.
Jenn
This book is the history of an interesting but rather obscure industry that flourished from the early 1800's to the early 1900's: the sale of natural blocks of ice to the American populace, the Caribbean and India. There are so many modern convinces that we take for granted these days it was fascinating to read about the beginnings of refrigeration and what sparked the need to stay cool.
Kevin
A wonderful back story of an extant trade. What was the world like prior to the refrigerator? It was interesting to me personally since it chronicles a lot of the history of the ice trade in New England. The book follows the failed business dealings of Frederic Tudor, who went on to champion the ice trade that disappeared with the invention of refrigeration.
Elizabeth
It's official--I have odd reading habits. This is a history of the ice trade in America in the 19th century--something that sounds, on the surface, fairly dry. The realities of ice and the impact refrigeration has on society, trade, medicine, and even technological advances, is a really nifty thing to explore. An ideal book for the omnivorous reader.
Ed
Selling ice...before the age of commercial refrigeration. By cutting blocks out of frozen ponds. Keeping them frozen when winter is past. The science and the organization are both, as Mr. Spock might say, quite fascinating. This is not a book about selling ice to Esquimaux. You may never take those little cubes you scoop out of the freezer for granted.
Pam
I read this book a number of years ago but I remember that the author Gavin Weightman did an excellent job writing an interesting and fast paced book about harvesting ice to sell before the advent of refrigeration. I know the subject may sound boring, but this book is not at all. This is a must read for history buffs.
Monica
This book was really interesting, especially for being an assigned reading. It's pretty crazy to think that as far back as the 1830's ice was harvested from lakes and sent from Boston to India. This was before refrigeration was invented and the traveling and storage time of the ice spanned months!
Michelle
This was a unique story. It makes the reader think about the complexities of trading a commodity such as ice. I would assume most have never though about it so in that regard it was quite interesting. Overall it was an ok read.
Converse
The amazing story of how the obsessed Bostonian merchant Frederic Tudor, together with the inventive Nathaniel Wyeth, created a vast 19th century industry harvesting & selling ice from rivers, lakes, and ponds
Margo Solod
ever wondered about ice, and who traded in it before refrigeration? and where it came from and where it went to and how?
a thoroughly enjoyable way to find answers to all these questions and more.
Chadfogg
Before ice was taken for granted. Less likely to laugh at the 19th century after reading this.
Jeff
This is *totally* about a direct ancestor of mine. He was crazy.
Leah
Leah marked it as to-read
Aug 27, 2014
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