I believe that when you start a new venture you must be willing to learn and adjust. I’ve been writing this blog for almost four months now, and what I’ve learned is that I would prefer to write more in-depth posts. Because of the time involved, I am going to adjust and instead of posting twice weekly, I will post once a week on Mondays.
In keeping with that theme of new ventures, today I’m writing about Frederic Tudor (1783-1864). Like many budding entrepreneurs, Tudor did not receive a lot of support when he discussed his business dream. Actually, he was ridiculed. I’ll let you decide if this is a story of extreme confidence or simple stubbornness.
Tudor saw the value in a natural resource widely available in Massachusetts: ice. He and his brother William pooled their resources to start a business shipping ice to the Caribbean, cutting blocks of ice from nearby ponds. They were unable to hire a ship to transport the ice because of the damage melted ice could cause to other cargo, so they had to use some of their precious resources to buy their own ship.
Their 1806 shipment of 80 tons of ice arrived in Martinique intact, but unfortunately for Tudor, the people of Martinique did not see the need for ice and were unwilling to buy. After this failure, Tudor’s brother left the business. Tudor finally turned a profit in 1810, but that didn’t last and Tudor ended up in debtor’s prison three times.
From necessity, Tudor became a genius at marketing, using free samples to persuade people that they couldn’t live without ice. And it worked. By 1821 Tudor had created a market for his product, shipping to the southern United States and the Caribbean. In 1833 he shipped ice to the British colonists in India.
After Tudor’s business became a success, others started harvesting and shipping ice, but Tudor remained the dominant force in the industry that he created. He died a rich man in 1864, almost 60 years after his first failed shipment to Martinique. The industry he created stayed strong until electric refrigerators replaced iceboxes in the mid-20th century.
In addition to the creative marketing techniques, Tudor’s business was strengthened by his willingness and ability to adjust and make changes. He adopted new technologies and production methods, unwilling to continue ineffective processes just because that was the way it had always been done. It obviously wasn’t always easy in the early years, but he persevered and succeeded.
The Ice King: Frederic Tudor and His Circle by Carl Seaburg and Stanley Paterson, edited by Alan Seaburg, published 2003
Mental Floss article The Surprisingly Cool History of Ice by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
Smithsonian article The Ice King Cometh: Frederic Tudor, Father of the Ice Industry by Lisa Bramen
The Atlantic article The Stubborn American Who Brought Ice to the World by Reid Mitenbuler
Ice Harvesting U.S.A. entry about Frederic Tudor from the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society of November 1933
History Channel article The Man Who Shipped New England Ice Around the World by Christopher Klein
I guess this really shows my age cathy, I remember as a kid how they harvested ice from the local lakes.then stored it in sawdust and people would come and buy it by the Chunks about a foot or 18 inches square.
Did your family harvest and sell ice? I think it’s not your age as much as growing up in a rural area, which at that time were slower to get the newfangled gadgets like refrigerators. Do you remember how old you were when your family got rid of the icebox? I wonder if anyone in the U.S. still does this. I wonder if the ponds and lakes are too polluted to do this now.
Don’t remember actually using an ice box. Dad built a new house when I was a baby so if we used an ice box I was too young to remember. I do know that they harvested ice for many years for other purposes than just ice boxes.
How interesting, I just think of ice in terms of food and drink. Thanks for sharing!