Zac McDorrThe ice trade, or “frozen water trade” as it was sometimes called, provided generations of Mainers with income. It even changed the landscape: Goddard’s Pond in Bath, Charles’s Pond in Georgetown, and similar ponds were created to feed the ice business.

The whole industry was created by one man from Boston, who proved that success in business is more about persistence than luck.

Until Frederic Tudor came along in 1806, summertime ice was a luxury product for the rich. Tudor was from a wealthy Boston family, and a trip to Martinique convinced him that the upper class inhabitants of tropical islands would be ideal customers for New England ice.

It seemed a brilliant plan, as the ice was free for the taking in the north and nonexistent in the south, but he had to overcome many obstacles on his way to success.

First, nobody would give him a ship to use. Shipping ice to Martinique seemed such a fool’s errand that he was forced to buy his own ship for $4,750. Second, nobody knew how to effectively insulate ice and keep it from melting. It took Tudor years to discover that sawdust was ideal insulation (and happily, another free product easily obtained from the timber industry.) Third, he was criticized by everyone, including his own family and the local press.

Fourth, the ports he shipped to had no ice houses to store the product, and Tudor lost all his money on the first two voyages. Fifth, he tried to ship fruit back from the islands to Boston, and it all rotted on the voyage. Speculation in coffee put him $200,000 in debt. He ended up in debtor’s prison several times. The war of 1812 didn’t help business either.

A successful ice shipment to India changed everything, however, and Tudor died a millionaire. The ice industry was born, and 150,000 tons of ice were being shipped worldwide by 1856.


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