The history of ice (part one): A good idea with a cold start

Posted by Turkey Hill Team on June 23rd, 2015


The history of tea is long and complex, but iced tea is a much more modern beverage. It’s modern mainly because to make iced tea, you need ice.

In the early 1800s, ice was a rare summer luxury, especially in the warmer southern states. It was a little easier to come by in New England, where they would cut ice from frozen ponds in the winter and then insulate the giant blocks with sawdust until summertime. Slowly, however, ice began to be shipped down south, and hot and thirsty southerners began putting it in their drinks.

picHow ice became a must-have drink ingredient is actually somewhat fascinating. It started in 1805, when two brothers from Boston named William and Frederic Tudor (right) were sipping cold beverages and eating ice cream (made, of course, with ice). One of the brothers half-jokingly suggested that the two team up to bring ice to colonists in the West Indies. William laughed, but Frederic saw real potential (and real money) in the idea.

He spent the next 15 years trying to make the idea a reality. The first shipment of ice — in a ship Tudor bought with $5,000 of his own money — left Boston in 1806 with 80 tons of ice en route to the Caribbean island of Martinique. The ice arrived intact, but Tudor had difficulty convincing the residents that ice was something that they needed in their overheated lives.

Over the next 10 years, Tudor eventually made some money with the idea, but it wasn’t the road to riches that he had hoped it would be. Tudor’s theory was that people just needed to try ice in order to realize that they couldn’t live without it.

It was in 1819, when Tudor was living in South Carolina, that his ice business began to take off. Tudor took ice with him wherever he went, pitching it to restaurants, bar owners, and even doctors and hospitals as a way to sooth feverish patients. Once most people tried ice, they immediately loved it, and Tudor’s venture began to flourish.

By 1821, the ice business was booming, and a partnership with an inventor named Nathanial Wyeth helped take Tudor’s idea to the next level and finally deliver the wealth Frederic Tudor envisioned.

Stay tuned for part two of our series on the history of ice — which includes details about Nathanial Wyeth’s invention — on Monday!


Leave a Comment

54 Responses to “The history of ice (part one): A good idea with a cold start”

  1. Elaine Garfield says:

    I love learning history, looking foeward to the next installment

  2. mary ann herrmann says:

    …great article (as always). will be anxiously waiting part 2.
    I do love my ICE!!

  3. Andrea Booker says:

    It’s great that your sharing history.

  4. Arno Sokk says:

    Learn something new every day! 🙂

  5. Robin Ames says:


  6. Maryann says:

    Great invention, can’t be without ice! Very interesting looking forward to the rest of the story.

  7. Sheila says:

    very interesting!

  8. Joan says:

    Interesting story. Looking forward to part 2. Thanks for sharing.

  9. LindaR says:

    Ahhhhhh, thank goodness, the ice man cometh!

  10. diane says:

    We sometimes do not realize how lucky we are to live in these times, it must have been quite a struggle for the people who lived then. A big thanks for telling us a history lesson today-looking forward to learning more.

  11. Ann says:

    I learned something today that I did not know. Thank you Turkey Hill. I do wonder how Tudor “took ice with him everywhere” when there was no way to keep it frozen. Maybe that is in Part 2.

  12. sue says:

    i love hearing about all of these neat ways that things got started–someone had to do it! thanks!

  13. CHRISTINE says:


  14. Annmarie W. says:

    This was really interesting! I have to admit that it’s not something I’ve given thought to before and being from New England, I never really considered how ‘modern’ ice is! My mom has shared with me, though, that her grandfather was once an ‘iceman’ who carried those big chunks of ice to folks to put in their iceboxes in the earlier part of the 20th century!

  15. Lou B says:

    Great Story>

  16. Amy says:

    Looking forward to next part of the story – thanks for the history lesson!

  17. Donna Keller says:

    Interesting, can’t wait for part 2

  18. RarnChild says:

    Who would have thought you had to convince people to use ice!

  19. Bea says:

    I do hate to admit I am the “older” generation, but I do remember my grandmother telling me about getting ice blocks and also the wood burning stove. She used the wood burner stove for cooking till she could not cook anymore. Great history lesson, guys!!

    • Bea says:

      I am so sorry. I get carried away with things in the past. We never think of not having ice, refrigerators or other modern things. I guess we can be thankful we don’t have to empty those old iceboxes.1461

  20. leecarr says:

    I thought that is was about the history of ice
    but it was still a good story

  21. Lois says:

    VERY interesting!!!!

  22. Pam says:

    Hooray for Frederic Tudor!

  23. Nancy says:

    Very interesting! I love ice in my drinks especially in the hot weather! 🙂

  24. Very interesting–I love American history and studied a lot about it in college.

  25. Donna says:

    Thank you for sharing this vital ingredient!

  26. Sarah says:

    Fascinating; thanks for this history lesson! I’m eagerly awaiting part 2.

  27. Barb says:

    Very interesting!

  28. Thanks for the history lesson!!! Very interesting.

  29. Betty B says:


  30. Harriet G. says:

    Thanks for the interesting history lesson about ice. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.

  31. maureen howard says:

    pretty cool!! lol

  32. Bob Kessler Jr says:

    Thank goodness for ice. It makes for refreshing drinks. I am sure Turkey Hill appreciates the fact that ice exists to be used in their products.

  33. Marie says:

    This was very interesting. Many years ago we went to Italy. Ice, there, at the time was at a premium. They did not give you ice unless you requested it and if you did, you had to pay for it. How shocked we were, with ice being so plentiful here in OUR COUNTRY.

    Can’t wait to read part 2.

    Thank you!!!

  34. Lydia says:

    you cannot live without ice in your tea

  35. Joseph says:

    everything has a history … including ice cream

  36. Vicki Spokes says:

    Interesting! I never knew this aspect of ice.

  37. Jim in SOMD says:

    I love history and this was interesting. It would have been a little better if it was explained how he was able to keep the ice from melting first on the boat to the Caribbean and then as he traveled around the South.

  38. Donna Straugh says:

    looking forward to 2nd article. I enjoy history a lot more now than I did in school. Maybe because there are no tests 🙂

  39. Heather Bruinsma says:

    Yep, I can’t live without ice either.

  40. Sally says:

    That’s very interesting. I can’t wait to read Part Two.

  41. Ron says:

    Frederic Tudor was right! We can’t live without ice! Interesting article. Looking forward to more!

  42. Richard F. Buckley says:

    A very interesting blog! I’m pushing 80 now, and I very well remember the ice man coming around with blocks of ice for the “icebox.” I thank God for the availability of ice these days, because I couldn’t get along without it, but I’ll never understand how people got along without an occasional piece of ice in the old days!

  43. Jacque Holliday says:

    As a child I remember the ice man bringing ice for our icebox. You used an ice pick to chip off what you wanted to use. Remembering those days gone by, and having to have ice cubes in my freezer at all times today, I have never thought about when ice evolved. Interesting story. Looking forward to part two.

  44. Andrea says:

    Never thought about the history of ice, so found this so interesting. Sure happy ice is readily available now with the hot, humid days & Turkey Hill ice tea.

  45. joan dobbins says:

    now that was very interesting….love to learn!!!

  46. JOAN says:


  47. Stephanie says:

    Love ice in every drink, my husband however isnt a fan. I like the little round balls of ice.

  48. Roger says:

    Great information.
    I also like the picture and that unusual grill!

  49. Barbara VW says:

    Never thought about people not wanting to try ice. Maybe, because I come from the South.

  50. Rose Marie says:

    This was a very interesting article, and I love the 50s era illustration!

  51. Karen B.-G. says:

    I think they used sawdust to keep it from melting. See “East of Eden” for cool James Dean romping around an Ice House. Now, there would be an icy T. Hill treat – ice cream with bits of lake ice in it, (maybe from Walden Pond) Assure everyone of its purity. What a neat crunch delight in vanilla or chocolate only, a truly limited time concoction.

  52. […] month, we told the story of the history of an ingredient that’s very important in the creation of iced tea, but it’s […]

  53. […] we told the story of the history of an ingredient that’s very important in the creation of iced tea, but it’s […]

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