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.
on 15 December 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.
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!
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.
The Frozen Water Trade is a fascinating story of entrepreneurship, engineering, marketing, and ingenuity, and Weightman's contribution to our understanding of this little known ice industry is immense. With fascinating illustrations and many old photographs, he documents how Massachusetts ice, if heavily insulated with sawdust, could last in icehouses for several years, and, with similar insulation, could be shipped throughout the world for most of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. The author, a British journalist, has gathered information about the unique and almost-forgotten New England ice industry from archives all over the world, turning his research into a truly compelling narrative which is great fun to read. His ability to highlight details which keep the reader enthralled while learning something new makes his scholarly research accessible to even the most reluctant reader of history. Mary Whipple
on 3 September 2011
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.
on 5 June 2013
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.
on 9 September 2009
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. Frederick Tudor was actually in prison for unpaid debts for a while but made good eventually and one wonders if he would have "made it" in the UK if that had happened to him here. At times not the nicest chap who in his old age when he was rich and successful, did not remember some of closest friends who kept going in the early days. Married late in life but his wife who was 30 years younger than him, complained that he was too demanding! Would it work now with global warming and ice to Calcutta? a trade which lasted 25 years after commercial refrigeration was available?
Interesting example of how quickly we forget.
on 6 January 2015
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.