Second Pour: The history of ice (part one)

Posted by Turkey Hill Team on June 29th, 2017

We’re closing out National Iced Tea Month with a fascinating two part series on the history of ice. That’s right, the history of ice. It doesn’t sound fascinating, but it really is! Here’s part one (best enjoyed with a tall glass of iced tea…with ice).



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 tomorrow, which includes details about Nathanial Wyeth’s invention!

Leave a Comment

20 Responses to “Second Pour: The history of ice (part one)”

  1. Lois Doyle says:

    I like mine crushed.

  2. diane says:

    Quite an interesting history lesson for today!!! Thanks for educating us!

  3. Elaine Garfield says:

    very interesting, not sure if this is “find a need and fill it” or “create a need and fill it”, I guess both might apply

  4. Donna Keller says:

    Very interesting facts. Keep them coming.

  5. Donna McCauley says:

    I lived in Gettysburg PA and lived in an apartment house they called the ice house.In earlier days they would ship via trains the train tracks were be side this building.This is where they would store the ice.Interesting article about ice.

  6. Jim in SOMD says:

    How did he get 80 tons of ice to Martinique without it melting? Why would he take it there before knowing that they would want it? I would think that pulling it out it would start to melt and then where would he be? This is strange indeed.

  7. JANET says:

    i’m not a fan of ice . when i order ice tea i always tell the server no ice please.

  8. lee carr says:

    of course the movie, Frozen, made ice seem simple to harvest
    looking forward to reading the rest of the story

  9. Denise says:

    cool info 😉

  10. Joan says:

    Thanks for the info. Great story. Looking forward to part two.

  11. When I was young the Railroad up close to our Baseball field would have 300 lbs. blocks of ice to ice up the fruit grows box cars that were insulated to keep the fruit fresh . Well , when were done playing baseball we would head over to the ice house and chip off a chunk of the block . The Railroad didn’t care and we just needed to cool off . Today they have refrigerated cars and ice house is gone .

  12. very interesting story; look forward to reading Part 2

  13. Barb says:

    Very interesting story….looking forward to part 2

  14. George Kern says:

    Hey, all you people! Can we get one thing straight while we’re on the subject of ice and mentioning tea? It’s iced tea (with a “d” on the end of “ice”), not ice tea (tea made from ice).

  15. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the history lesson. I’m looking forward to the 2nd installment.

  16. Elsie Nicolette says:

    Very interesting! We take so much for granted. Looking forward to Part 2.

  17. Patricia says:

    Very informative. We have a second home in the Northern Neck of Virginia. It is an 18th century house and there is the remains of an ice house on the property. Being close to the Potomac River, there are many creeks and backwaters, which create ponds. During the winter the ponds would freeze and the residents would collect big hunks of ice that would be stored in the deep hole, covered with straw, etc. and a roof to preserve the ice for warmer months. Since we are in the 21st century, we don’t worry about the ice house. We use the freezer in our frig.

  18. Carol says:

    Very interesting. I prefer refrigerated drinks without extra ice.

  19. Amy says:

    Great information, thanks for sharing.

  20. Mary Anne Powell says:

    Great history lesson and I love ice…especially crushed.

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