Second Pour: The history of ice (part two)

Posted by Turkey Hill Team on June 30th, 2017

pic4Yesterday, we told the story of the history of an ingredient that’s very important in the creation of iced tea, but it’s equally important (if not more so) in the creation of ice cream. Of course, we’re talking about ice.

Of course, ice has been around since the beginning of time, but the harvesting of ice and the shipment of it so that folks in warm regions can enjoy it in the summertime is a relatively new development. Like we mentioned in our June blog entry, it started with a man named Frederic Tudor, who began harvesting ice from frozen lakes in Massachusetts and shipping it around the world in 1805.

Tudor’s ice business didn’t take off until 1819, but it was a partnership with an inventor named Nathanial Wyeth in the 1820s that helped Tudor take his frozen dream to the next level.

Before meeting Wyeth, ice was cut from lakes by hand, with men armed with pickaxes, chisels and saws. It was an time-consuming and dangerous process, but Wyeth found an easier way to harvest the ice. By inventing a special horse-drawn plow equipped with large saw-like blades, more ice could be cut in less time and by fewer men (the plow actually scored the ice into blocks, which were then more easily pried apart by men with crowbars).



Wyeth’s method also allowed Tudor’s men to create ice blocks that were bigger and squarer than blocks cut by hand. This, in turn, allowed the ice to be packed more tightly into ships, which minimized melting while it was being shipped thousands of miles away. For example, a 180-ton shipment of ice from Boston to Calcutta (18,000 miles away!) arrived mostly intact and was so well received by the residents, that they immediately began construction of ice houses to store the cargo in.

But Wyeth wasn’t done. He also created a system of conveyor belts, which hoisted blocks out of the icy water and transported them to icehouses for storage until they were ready to be shipped.

Yes, Tudor’s ice business was heating up. By 1847, more than 50,000 tons of ice were being shipped by train or ship to 28 cities in the United States, and almost half of that ice came from Tudor’s Boston headquarters.

Frederic Tudor died in 1864, but the ice business continued to prosper. Americans fell in love with the idea of fresh meat, milk, fruit and, of course, ice cream. Before long, every family and grocery store in America had an icebox. Soon, with the invention of electric freezers and refrigerators, ice could now be made at home, but the taste for frozen treats like iced tea and ice cream lived on.

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19 Responses to “Second Pour: The history of ice (part two)”

  1. diane says:

    Wyeth was quite a thinker-trying to invent something to make life easier in those days. Thanks again for continuing the history lesson.

  2. Elaine says:

    free enterprise is a great thing

  3. Donna Keller says:

    I loved these stories, keep them coming.

  4. Joan says:

    What a great story. I’m old enough to remember the “ice box” at my Grandmother’s house. She had a block of ice delivered every few days, if I remember correctly.
    Thanks for sharing these stories.

  5. Jim in SOMD says:

    I had heard of the inventions by Wyeth before. I just did not remember who had invented them. I wonder why Wyeth didn’t go into the ice business himself. Was he an employee of Tudor and had signed and maybe had signed a non-competing agreement? Why didn’t Frederic’s brother stay a part of the business?

  6. Lois Doyle says:

    Very interesting!

  7. CHRISTINE says:


  8. Bob Kessler Jr says:

    We have come a long way thanks to Mr. Wyeth. We are fortunate to have so many men and women inventors who have helped make our lives more bearable.

  9. Debra Rusovick says:

    That was very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Donna McCauley says:

    I found this very interesting.

  11. Elsie Nicolette says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. Gives a greater appreciation of everything cold!

  12. Brenda Brooks says:

    I love your story. Good story.

  13. Sarah says:

    Well, bless Mr. Tudor’s for starting all this. Summer would be unbearable without iced tea!

  14. Carol says:

    It’s amazing how innovative people can be!

  15. Wyeth was really creative. Really enjoyed his story. One line from the above entry had my chuckling to myself “Tudor’s ice business was heating up”

  16. Karen says:

    “..but ice is nice, and would suffice…” check out Robert Frost poem about the ending of the world. All this ice talk has me thinking about melting ice caps and drowning polar bears.

  17. Amy says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing.

  18. Patricia Smith-Rice says:

    It is said that “necessity is the Mother of invention”…these historical facts prove that adage true. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Mary Anne Powell says:

    Another great story! I had heard a little about this but this filled in the blanks.

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