WTF Fun Fact 12728 – Frederic Tudor’s International Ice Shipment

Have you heard of Frederic “The Ice King” Tudor? He may sound like European royalty, but he was actually the American founder of international ice shipment (long before people could make their own).

Tudor figured out how to carve ice chunks out of bodies of water – particularly Wenham Lake in Massachusetts – and send it as far away as India and New Zealand by ship!

And did we mention that this was in the 1800s, before refrigeration?

Tudor was initially mocked for his attempts to ship it. Of course, his first attempts were the utter failures one might expect from someone trying to send ice cubes to the Caribbean. (He also spent time in debtor’s prison after being scammed by a business partner.)

Tudor was born in 1783, and by 1820, he had indeed figured out a way to put ice on a boat and send it pretty much anywhere in the world. Perhaps more impressive was his ability to send it to people who had never even seen or heard of ice before. He just convinced them they needed it! (In fact, he played a major role in New Zealand’s booming ice cream industry as a result.)

When the Harvard grad first began his business, he need to purchase his own ship since no ship owners would allow him to rent space on their vessels for a product guaranteed to melt all over the place. Luckily, buying his own ship meant he could control the conditions much more closely.

So, how did Tudor’s international ice shipment production get ice all the way to India and places in between? He insulated giant cubes by packing them in sawdust. Of course, this wasn’t always successful, and there was a tremendous among of ice lost in the process, but there was usually enough to sell by the time it reached its destination. (Even Queen Victoria got her ice from Massachusetts.)

By 1847, he was shipping over 22 tons of ice to foreign ports, three of which were in India. To give you an idea of the accomplishment, that’s a 14,000-mile journey that requires crossing the equator twice.

Of course, Tudor didn’t invent the idea of enjoying ice – the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Chinese all found ways to store ice during the winter to use during the warmer months. They just didn’t ship it as far as Tudor did.

Source: “Frederic Tudor | New England’s Ice King” — ThoughtCo

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