Ice: Visualizing an Industry
Frederic Tudor 1783-1864


Cutting and storing winter's ice for summertime use brought cold drinks and comfort to New England residents on hot, humid days. Bostonian Frederic Tudor saw a business opportunity. In 1805, he gambled on a plan to store and ship ice cut in Massachusetts to the island of Martinique in the West Indies. Until Tudor, there was no ice in the Caribbean, India, or New Orleans.

His initial experiments failed, but though in debt and ridiculed, Tudor persisted in designing improved methods for insulating, storing, and shipping ice. He enlisted help from a friend, Nathaniel Wyeth. Wyeth developed an ice plow able to cut blocks of ice into uniform shapes, thus improving the storage and transport of the ice.

The "Ice King," Tudor's nickname, was soon shipping ice from Fresh Pond and Walden Pond along the railroad he helped build down to Tudor's Wharf on the Charlestown waterfront. The wharf still exists, next to the USS Constitution in Charlestown Navy Yard. The ice industry boomed and, by the close of the 19th century, there were over 200 ice plants in America and more than a dozen in Boston alone. Tudor enjoyed a monopoly in Boston for ten years. The "Ice King" became a rich man, and Nathaniel Wyeth, an ancestor of the American painter Andrew Wyeth, became a pioneer to Oregon.


  The Ice King: Frederic Tudor and His Circle by Carl Seaburg, 2003