Excerpt from The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Frozen Water Trade

A True Story

by Gavin Weightman

The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman X
The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2003, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2004, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Frozen Assets of New England

When the brothers William and Frederic Tudor agreed to put together what money they had in the summer of 1805 and invest it in a scheme to sell ice to the West Indies, they held the plan close to their chests. They had dreamed up the idea after spending some pleasant weeks on the family farm, Rockwood, near Boston. It was just a few miles inland from this city, the great port that seethed with shipping and merchants, many of whom had made fortunes trading around the world in all kinds of luxury goods. New England itself had little of value to export: there was no iron or coal or cotton, and the farmland was picturesque but poor. Most of Boston's trade was secondhand: the Yankee merchants had a sharp eye for other nations' goods, which they bought and sold as their ships scoured the world for bargains.

Just to the north, the port of Salem had more or less cornered the market in peppercorns, reexporting in 1805 7.5 million tons of the spice, which was greatly valued as a food preservative in the days before refrigeration. And in 1783, the year the younger Tudor brother Frederic was born, a syndicate of Boston merchants had made a fortune from a shipload of ginseng that they sold in Canton. The herbal root, rare in China, where it was greatly prized as an aphrodisiac and a tonic, had been found growing in abundance in North America, and the first Boston cargo was said to equal ten times the annual Chinese consumption. But even the shrewd merchants of Massachusetts had failed to realize that each winter a local product of dazzlingly high quality was left to dissolve away each spring, while in the tropical islands of the West Indies and the plantation states of southern America it would be worth its weight in gold. That, at any rate, was how the Tudor brothers saw it, and why they wanted to keep their scheme for selling ice in tropical climates a secret. Once Boston merchants got wind of their brilliant plan, they would face stiff competition.

The elder brother, William, who was twenty-six years old and a Harvard graduate with some worldly experience after traveling in Europe, was just a bit skeptical once he had considered the practical problems of the venture. But Frederic, not quite twenty-two and the maverick of the distinguished Boston family, was convinced it would make them a fortune, and that within a few years they would be, as he put it, "inevitably and unavoidably rich." As it turned out, Frederic did make his fortune selling ice, but there was nothing inevitable or unavoidable about his eventual success. The fact that he prospered at all, after suffering years of ridicule and hardship, was more of a miracle than something preordained. Then, as now, the notion that it was possible to cut lake ice in winter in New England and sell it the following summer 1,500 miles away in Cuba or Martinique, with no artificial refrigeration to prevent it from melting, was thought to be ridiculous.

Nevertheless, the plan did make some sense. The Tudor family was privileged. The brothers' grandfather Deacon Tudor was a self-made baker and merchant who had sailed from Devon, England, in 1715, at the age of six. His mother was a young widow who had remarried in America, well enough for John to receive a basic education. John did sufficiently well in business to send his youngest son, William, to Harvard to study law. He also bought the hundred-acre farm, Rockwood, as a kind of rugged country estate where the family could spend the hot summer months away from their town house in Boston. At Rockwood, like a few of the better-off Bostonians, the Tudors had an icehouse that was stocked in winter from a pond on the farm that usually froze solid in January and February. As children, Frederic and his brothers and sisters enjoyed ice cream in the summer and took their drinks cooled with chunks of crystal-clear ice from Rockwood Pond. This was a great luxury. In Europe, icehouses--traditionally underground and lined with brick or stone--had long been a privilege of the wealthy, who could afford to excavate them on their estates and had the manpower to fill them in winter with ice from their frozen ornamental lakes.

From The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman. Copyright 2003 by Gavin Weightman. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Hyperion Publishing.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...
  • Book Jacket: Mothers of Sparta
    Mothers of Sparta
    by Dawn Davies
    What it's about:
    The tagline on the back cover of Mothers of Sparta says it all: "Some women...
  • Book Jacket: Fortress America
    Fortress America
    by Elaine Tyler May
    In Fortress America, Elaine Tyler May presents a fascinating but alarming portrait of America's...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    As Bright as Heaven
    by Susan Meissner

    A story of a family reborn through loss and love in Philadelphia during the flu epidemic of 1918.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

G O T P, B The P, F T P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.