In the tradition of Cod by Mark Kurlansky, a remarkable book about a long-forgotten historical phenomenon that changed our world -- the rise and fall of the natural ice industry in nineteenth-century North America.
On February 13, 1806, the brig Favorite left Boston harbor bound for the Caribbean island of Martinique, with a cargo that 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 fulfill his dream. Over 30 years, he and his rivals extended the "frozen water trade" to Cuba, Charleston, New Orleans, New York, and London, and finally to Calcutta, when in 1833 more than one hundred tons of ice survived a four-month voyage of 16,000 miles with two crossings of the Equator.
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 homemade ice cream became essential to the American way of life, and cooled the brows of communities throughout the world long before artificial refrigeration -- after which the frozen-water trade melted away.
In this fascinating book, Gavin Weightman reveals the forgotten story of America's vast natural ice trade, which revolutionized domestic life for millions of people.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
Curiosity about the vanished ice industry energizes Weightman's narrative, a pleasing reminder of a forgotten but once-ubiquitous business.
Weightman, a London journalist and documentary filmmaker, uncovers a secret history and ends up transforming a dull-sounding topic into a riveting read.... [he] takes a relatively unknown part of history (and the figure at its center), and creates a funny, rollicking human adventure.
British journalist Weightman brings back the days when an icebox was truly an ice box....A fascinating and vast industry, melted away as completely as an ice cube on a summer sidewalk, but delightfully preserved here.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
Mr. Weightman's book is both a delight to read, as well as an extremely useful study in entrepreneurial spirit. I like it so much, in fact, I assigned it as required reading for a class in Entrepreneurship at the university where I teach. Fun,... Read More
'Offers an exquisite chronicle of the rise and fall of this bituminous black mineral.... Part history and part environmental argument, Freese's elegant book teaches an important lesson about the interdependence of humans and their natural environment both for good and ill throughout history.'
Deftly leading readers around the world and across cultures and centuries, Kurlansky takes an inexpensive, mundane item and shows how it has influenced and affected wars, cultures, governments, religions, societies, economies & food. An entertaining, informative read.
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