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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Exploring Boston: Meet Frederic Tudor, the "Ice King"

There's an excellent article in the Globe about a New England guy who changed the world in a weird way. His name was Frederic Tudor, and he was the "Ice King."

During the 1850s, roughly 140,000 tons of ice were leaving Massachusetts every year, headed for more than 50 cities around the world.

Tudor invented that ice trade.

In 1806, he "cut ice out of a lake in Lynn and packed it below the ship’s water line, using a mixture of sawdust and hay as insulation. An impressive amount of the ice survived the 20 day journey over the Atlantic Ocean [to Martinique.]" This was the first ever shipment of ice over long distances.

"By the middle of the century, ice harvested by Tudor and his associate, Nathaniel Wyeth, was reaching the shores of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Calcutta."

The availability of ice, in times and places where it was not available naturally, had astonishing repercussions:

"The ice trade was a catalyst for a transformation in daily life so powerful that the mark it left can still be seen on our cultural habits even today.... Suddenly people could eat perishable fruits, vegetables, and meat produced far from their homes. Ice built a new kind of infrastructure that would ultimately become the cold, shiny basis for the entire modern food industry."

The ice trade even changed the US legal system. For example:

Ice-cutting machine design rivalries led to permanent changes in the Patent system. Disputes over who owned the rights to pond ice, when a pond has many abutters, changed how property rights were defined.

And Tudor also changed marketing: He gave free ice to prominent bars, for a year. Once the customers got accustomed to cold drinks any time of the year, the bartenders were more or less obliged to buy ice (at normal rates) from year two onward.

How successful was he? "To this day," the article says, "Europeans rarely put ice in their drinks, but Americans do."

Full Article: