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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Gavin Weightman is an experienced television documentary-maker (producer/director/writer), journalist and author of many books such as The Making of Modern London: 1815–1914, The Making of Modern London: 1914–1939, London River, Picture Post Britain and Rescue: A History of the British Emergency Services (Boxtree).From Publishers Weekly:
Weightman, a London journalist and documentary filmmaker, uncovers a secret history and ends up transforming a dull-sounding topic into a riveting read. He introduces turn-of-the-19th-century Bostonian Frederic Tudor as an indefatigable American dreamer who sought to give people something they didn't know they wanted-and make a killing while he's at it. Tudor hatches scheme after scheme to "farm" ice from New England ponds and deliver chunks of the brand-new commodity to the Caribbean, and ultimately to India and elsewhere, so that items like cold beverages and ice cream become cultural staples. Along the way Tudor encounters disbelievers, creditors, rivals, imprisonment, yellow fever, warm weather, political scuffles-even pirates. Weightman also delves engagingly into the science of freezing and the particulars and economics of ice transport and storage. Through it all, Weightman juggles the players in the burgeoning but finally ephemeral business while he spins a tale of a pre-refrigerated world. Issues of commerce and entrepreneurship in an infant nation are revealed in this page-turner, which gets its title from the name of the industry. When Weightman visits Tudor's original ice source, locals think the author is loony for suggesting that cubes from the pond cooled people in Calcutta two centuries earlier-and made one man (and perhaps many others) rich in the process. Weightman takes a relatively unknown part of history (and the figure at its center), and creates a funny, rollicking human adventure.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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