Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story” as Want to Read:
The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Frozen Water Trade: A True Story

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  221 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Now in paperback, the fascinating story of America's vast natural ice trade which revolutionized the 19th century

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 voyage. Packed in hay in the hold were large chunks of ice cut from a frozen Massachusetts lake. T
Paperback, 274 pages
Published February 4th 2004 by Hachette Books (first published January 8th 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Lost City Radio by Daniel AlarcónTraffic by Tom VanderbiltUniversal Principles of Design by William LidwellWild Ones by Jon MooallemNo Nails, No Lumber by Jeffrey Head
99% Invisible books
71st out of 91 books — 4 voters
Eight Flavors by Sarah LohmanConsider the Fork by Bee WilsonAmerican Catch by Paul GreenbergPasta by Silvano ServentiThe Third Plate by Dan Barber
Books related to Gastropod podcast
26th out of 39 books — 2 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 452)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 17, 2011 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2010-2011
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
Jun 01, 2011 Daniel rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2014 Joan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Ellen Worling
Mar 14, 2016 Ellen Worling rated it really liked it
I borrowed this book from the library after hearing about it on one of my favourite podcasts, 99 percent invisible. The book is about the trade of selling frozen blocks of ice from lakes, rivers and streams in the northeastern US around the world in the late 1800's, early 1900's. I own an ice chest from around this period and remember the stories from my parents of having ice delivered for the upper portion of the chest.

The author explores the selling of ice as a huge industry, which was tax fr
Mar 21, 2011 Shelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 14, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
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
Nov 05, 2015 Meg rated it it was amazing
The greatest story never told. Something we use everyday and take for granted, ice. This book is so well written and full of fascinating information about life in America in the early-1800s. Being from the North East I cannot believe that I had never heard of this man or his contribution to not only commerce in America at that time but the creation of an industry that would truly change the world in which we live. An excellent and quick read - I would highly recommend for anyone but particularly ...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
Nov 01, 2011 Jacob rated it really liked it
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
Jan 08, 2008 Hannah rated it really liked it
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
Jul 07, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 16, 2014 Elaine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Nov 11, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Jul 23, 2011 Holly rated it liked it
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
Kylie Briggs
Apr 21, 2016 Kylie Briggs rated it it was ok
I was really excited about this but the writing was so dry. Did not finish.
Sep 03, 2010 Julia rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
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
Jan 30, 2010 Pbwritr rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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.
Julian Walker
Jan 06, 2015 Julian Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at an everyday item to which I had never given much thought.

The amazing ingenuity of transporting ice, the logistics involved and the incredible background context against which this is set, all make for a thoroughly interesting, albeit slightly obscure, historical read.

If you are looking for something a little bit different, then this is the book for you.

Read whilst enjoying a cold drink for that bit extra.
Jo Oehrlein
This book tells the unbelievable story of how New England supplied ice to the southern states (including New Orleans), the West Indies, England, and as far away as India. It’s really one man’s person journey from an idea, through many setbacks, to a thriving industry that left him financially well-off. In addition, there’s discussion of one of his employees and subcontractors who invented many of the tools used.
Jan 06, 2010 Angela rated it really liked it
Shelves: 900s-history
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.
Mar 16, 2012 Jenn rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 29, 2012 Kevin rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 15, 2008 Ed rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 13, 2012 Pam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, 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.
Oct 30, 2011 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 19, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 01, 2010 Converse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Samuel Katz
Feb 15, 2015 Samuel Katz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting

I love reading about different things, and this book is no exception. Ice was a major reason for the rise of America as superpower before the era of electricity.
Margo Solod
Nov 22, 2007 Margo Solod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 15 16 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Inside Islam: The Faith, the People and the Conflicts of the World's Fastest Growing Religion
  • Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection (Thomas & Friends)
  • Lady Franklin's Revenge
  • Mrs. Armitage: Queen of the Road
  • Evolution's Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around the World
  • The Tyranny Of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History
  • Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts
  • Museum ABC
  • Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We Se
  • Golden Afternoon
  • A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable
  • Home And Away
  • Dimity Dumpty: The Story of Humpty's Little Sister
  • Pete the Sheep-Sheep
  • Children Just Like Me
  • Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871
  • Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times
  • Barrow's Boys: The Original Extreme Adventurers: A Stirring Story of Daring Fortitude and Outright Lunacy

Share This Book

“He who gives back at first repulse and without striking the second blow, despairs success, has never been, is not, and never will be, a hero in love, war or business. - Frederick Tudor” 2 likes
More quotes…