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The Frozen Water Trade [Paperback]

Gavin Weightman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

4 Oct 2010

The story of the 19th-century ice trade, in which ice from the lakes of New England – valued for its incredible purity – revolutionised domestic life around the world.

In the days before artificial refrigeration, it was thought impossible to transport ice for long distances. But one man, Frederic Tudor, was convinced it could be done. This is the story of how, almost single-handedly, and in the face of near-universal mockery, he established a vast industry that would introduce the benefits of fresh ice to large parts of the globe.

Thanks to Tudor, the American fashion for drinks ‘on the rocks’ spread to tropical areas such as the West Indies and British India. By the 1830s fleets of schooners carried the frozen cargo, packed with sawdust and tarpaulins for insulation, to all corners of the world. The harvesting of the ice from New England’s lakes employed thousands of men.

The frozen water trade had a profound influence on the tastes of a large part of the world, but with the development of artificial cooling systems in the first quarter of the 20th century, the huge industry established by Frederic Tudor vanished as if it had never been.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (4 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007102860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007102860
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 391,645 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 29 July 2003
By The Soft Machine Operator TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Inspirational Book 15 Dec 2003
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Not detailed enough 5 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good and interesting book that describes a relatively unknown area of American economy in the 19th century. On the whole, I believe it's worth reading even just for fun and the pleasure of discovering facts that one has not been aware of (as it's very well written). I just wish it contained more details about the trade itself. On the other hand, maybe no more were available. The book also lacks a bibliography, which is a serious drawback, if one wants to do some follow-up research on their own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Water good book! 31 Oct 2006
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
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking insight 10 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There is not much depth to this book. The Americans once spotted ice to the southern states, Caribbean and east Indies. They used it as a basket which could then be sold. That's it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
This is a very interesting read about the ice trade. Who knew there was so much behind it? I didn't. Read and be amazed.
Published on 17 April 2012 by Barnes Bridge
4.0 out of 5 stars the rise and disappearance of the natural ice industry
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... Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2011 by James-philip Harries
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating writing and impressive story
Captivating look into how one man started and built an industry that has disappeared without a trace in modern times (how many people knew of ice being shipped to India in the 19th... Read more
Published on 2 July 2010 by Sirbu Mihai
5.0 out of 5 stars brechin bookworm
Amazing book could not put it down well written every time I look at the cover cannot believe boats took ice all the way to India. Read more
Published on 23 Feb 2010 by N. H. Mcleay
3.0 out of 5 stars What's the opposite of "Coals to Newcastle?"
Took the book on holiday and read it quickly. Great of example of perseverance and tenacity and intetresting example of the different attitude to enterprise in the UK and USA. Read more
Published on 9 Sep 2009 by Mr. G. P. Emsden
2.0 out of 5 stars Left me cold, I'm afraid..
I SO wanted to love this book after reading the great and inspiring reviews but I found it surprisingly boring. Sorry!
Published on 31 Oct 2008 by Becky Sharpe
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