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The Frozen Water Trade Hardcover – 4 Feb 2002

15 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 4 Feb 2002
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (4 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007102852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007102853
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,361,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Everybody everywhere enjoys imbibing beverages 'on the rocks' probably without ever sparing a thought about how the frozen wherewithal was achieved before the advent of artificial refrigeration. This book tells the fascinating tale of Frederic Tudor, a diminutive Bostonian of Devonshire descent, who in the early 19th century evolved the idea of transporting New England ice to the four corners of the earth to cool fevered brows, aid in the creation of ice cream and deliver a refreshing coldness to all manner of drinks. Tudor faced widespread derision, but persevered to found a vast industry. Weightman's account is excellently researched and presented, and vividly covers the total demise of a now forgotten industry.

From the Back Cover

On 13 February 1806 the brig 'Favorite' Left Boston harbour bound for the Caribbean island of Martinique, with a cargo that a 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 fortune selling ice to tropical countries.

Ridiculed from the outset by fellow merchants, Tudor endured years of hardship before he was to fulfil his youthful dream. Over thirty years he and his rivals extended the 'frozen water trade' to Cuba, Charleston, New Orleans, New York and London and finally – to the astonishment and delight of the British Raj – to Calcutta, when in 1833 more than a hundred tons of ice survived a four-month voyage of 16,00 miles with two crossings of the Equator. For the next fifty years Calcutta, Bombay and Madras eagerly awaited their regular supplies of New England ice.

Tudor not only made a fortune; he founded a huge industry which each winter employed thousands of men and horses to harvest millions of tons of ice. Thanks to his astonishing enterprise, iced drinks, chilled beer and home- made ice Cream became an essential part of the American way of life, and cooled the brows of colonial communities throughout the world long before artificial refrigeration became available – after which the frozen water trade melted away, leaving little to show that it had ever existed.

In this fascinating book Gavin Weightman reveals the forgotten story of America's vast natural ice trade, which revolutionised domestic life for millions of people.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By The Soft Machine Operator TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 July 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting and absorbing book detailing the early days of the Ice Industry in the US. Centered around Frederic Tudor and his constant ups and downs, this is one of those books that is difficult to put down. As an aside, it raises some interesting differences between US and UK "Ice Drink" culture in the Victorian times, throws in some interesting historical pointers into the development of artificial refrigration. Much more than a book on ice. Well worth reading.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By paul solomons on 15 Dec. 2003
Format: Hardcover
Sadly I never have the time to read as many books as I would wish. Having heard The Frozen Water Trade featured on Radio 4, I thought it sounded facinating, and that is exactly what it proved to be. I hate the cliche "I could not put it down until I had read it from cover to cover" but The Frozen Water Trade is one such book and I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone who has an entreprenurial spirit. This book will be a huge motivational weapon. As someone who does not even have ice in my drinks I found the topic spellbinding and Gavin Weightman has written it with great authority and attention to detail. The book will be an inspiration for ANYONE trying their best in life to suceed with all the odds stacked against them. Reading it gave me a spring in my step. One of the most interesting books I have ever read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SAP VINE VOICE on 31 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book sat on my bookshelf for years before I read it. It just doesn't sound very interesting, does it? Shifting ice from north North America to south North America... I mean, how much can you write about it? The answer is lots. And it isn't boring! This is an inspiring story of what can be achieved with a little entrepreneurial spirit and a never-say-die attitude! Fred Tudor possessed bucketfuls of the stuff and then some! and it's only sad that if it were not for this book his achievement might have been entirely forgotten. Apart from the story itself this book is written in a very engaging style and is a pleasure to read. Buy it!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 29 Jan. 2003
Format: Hardcover
The indescribable heat of summer in Calcutta was especially oppressive for officials of the Empire, accustomed as they were to cooler weather at home, and when word reached them in September, 1833, that a ship carrying ice from Boston had arrived at the mouth of the Hooghly River, many regarded this as a huge practical joke. The temperature that September day was over 90 degrees, and any ice from New England would have had to be cut from rivers or ponds at least six months earlier. No such shipment of ice had ever been attempted before, and the journey from Boston to Calcutta would have taken 120 days, even if the weather had been good. How could ice possibly survive so long without refrigeration in the hold of a ship? Nevertheless, fifty tons of ice were soon unloaded and sold to the astonished British inhabitants.
For Frederic Tudor the successful shipping of this ice to Calcutta in 1833 was the culmination of a thirty-year dream. A "diminutive, pig-headed Bostonian," he had dropped out of school at thirteen and was regarded as a family maverick, always doing something different from what was expected. Boston financiers refused to help him finance his wild dream of shipping ice to the tropics, and it was Frederic's own family and connections which had to subsidize his initial experiments in 1806, when, at age twenty-two, he made his first shipment of "frozen water" to Martinique. By selling an easily available, free commodity--ice from New England's frozen rivers and ponds--to other parts of the world, however, Frederic Tudor eventually became one of the great American entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century, ultimately earning a long-term profit of almost a quarter of a million dollars in the Calcutta trade alone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a charming, lightweight and heartwarming story, worthy of Samuel Smiles' Self Help. Braving pirates, yellow fever, double-crossing business partners, debtor's prison and multiple failures one man founds an industry and achieves wealth, honour and a young pretty wife.

In nineteenth century Boston Frederick Tudor had a brain wave. Why not ship New England's lake ice to hot countries and make a fortune? He wanted to patent his idea and get monopoly rights from his customers. He was worried about competitors stealing his idea. He needn't have worried, his scheme was universally derided.

Through sheer stubbornness Tudor eventually succeeded, though the secret of success was not monopoly but a policy of pile it high and sell it cheap. An ice cube as big as a diamond melts quickly, an ice cube as big as the Ritz is almost forever. The largest market, it turned out, was not the tropics but the US itself.

Today we use fridges and air conditioners to do the work that the ice trade used to do, and our closest approach to the ice trade is the ersatz nostalgia of the supermarket fish counter. Yet perhaps the trade is not dead yet. There are schemes afoot (as they have been for 150 years) to tow icebergs to hot countries to supply fresh water.

The book could have been 30 pages shorter. Success is less interesting than failure, and there are large repetitive quotes from local newspapers in the latter part of the story which add nothing. But when he's writing not quoting the author writes well. Recommended holiday reading.
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