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Description - The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman

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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Book Details

ISBN: 9780007102860
ISBN-10: 0007102860
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 130mm x 15mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publish Date: 17-Mar-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman

Book Reviews - The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman

UK Kirkus Review » Ice is taken for granted in today's world, but this fascinating book by Gavin Weightman, author of several works on the history of London, describes the great struggle to shape a taste and create markets for 'frozen water'. In the 19th century America became the world's first refrigerated nation, at a time when cold drinks were a novelty in Europe and when the laws of thermodynamics were imperfectly understood. Frederic Tudor, the Boston Ice King, was the presiding genius and buccaneering merchant in this endeavour. He was born in 1783 and died 80 colourful years later, by which time the jewel in his crown was the ice trade from Boston to Calcutta. A man of rare resilience, he endured vagaries of fortune which would have broken a lesser being: his life was a juggling act during which he was alternately raising loans and being jailed for debt. When he was at liberty he travelled continually in order to establish businesses and to avoid the dread yellow fever. He speculated in coffee and failed, but then recouped his fortunes through the ice trade. At the age of 50 he married a 19-year-old, by whom he eventually had six children. This thoroughly researched book depicts an age of progress, during which daring men experimented with technology, invested money and risked their lives in order to succeed in a business that was initially widely ridiculed. Eventually, however, the ice harvests drew spectators, and an 'ice famine' became something to be feared. Famous characters such as Cobbett and Thoreau haunt the pages of this account, and the atmosphere of exotic places in America's Deep South, India and the West Indies is convincingly evoked. Weightman has succeeded admirably in bringing an almost forgotten episode in American history back to life. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » British journalist Weightman brings back the days when an icebox was truly an ice box. At the turn of the 19th century, a young Boston entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor thought he might be able to turn a dime if he could get the ice that formed on a local pond to the West Indies to cool their drinks and make ice cream. As Weightman relates the tale (in a voice as soothing as that ice was for the West Indians), Tudor created the trade from the bottom up. He put together teams to harvest the ice, built icehouses to store the goods, arranged for a monopoly, then shipped the ice south. It was a slippery slope at first, and returns were meager until they had ironed out the kinks; Tudor suffered both a nervous collapse and visits from the sheriff's debt collectors before the trade took root. But gradually, ice became indispensable in places like New Orleans, Havana, and-remarkably, if you are unfamiliar with the thermodynamics of ice-India. The 16,000-mile, 130-day voyage that brought this cooling godsend to the British Raj "furthered the reputation of New England merchants as ingenious and benevolent entrepreneurs." While Weightman spends most of his time detailing the vicissitudes of the Tudor family trade, he also pays close attention to the development of our understanding of how ice behaves, the evolving design of icehouses, the creation of name brands, and the death of the industry, which had a lot less to do with the spread of electrification (iceboxes were still much in evidence in rural America until the 1950s) than it did with pollution: as early as 1907, Hudson River ice promised not just a kiss of cold, but probably a dose of typhoid bacteria as well. A fascinating and vast industry, melted away as completely as an ice cube on a summer sidewalk, but delightfully preserved here. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen) (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Gavin Weightman

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).

Books By Gavin Weightman

Eureka by Gavin Weightman
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Industrial Revolutionaries by Gavin Weightman
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