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Askew Review 15

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(Hyperion) by Gavin Weightman. History. 2003. 247 pages. During the summer of 1805, Bostonian brothers William and Frederic Tudor agreed to pool their money to form a company with the intention of selling something to people who didn’t know they needed it, ice. Guided mostly by a trial and error system, Frederic (William bailed out rather quickly) devised a system of ice harvesting, storage houses, and a marketing plan to convince those in warm climate areas that they really needed ice for various reasons: cold drinks, ice cream and refrigeration. Harvested from Boston area ponds, the ice was placed in storage houses until it was jammed into the hull of ships for delivery.  Along with fighting lost and delayed ships, in which the ice and profits melted, Frederic also had to deal with pirates, creditors, jail, skeptics, yellow fever, and the pressure of having to revive his family’s dwindling fortune and good name. Beginning in the West Indies, Tudor expanded to Havana, the Southern US, and India, with his crown jewel export being the 1933 four month, 16,000 mile voyage of one hundred tons of ice to Calcutta. With pure determination, Fredric overcame years of near failure and slowly built and dominated the new ice trade industry that not only made him a fortune, but also hailed him as “The Boston Ice King.” 
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. Yes, the topic of this book may seem uninteresting, but The Frozen Water Trade is anything but. In fact, I found this book to be fascinating. Utilizing his own research, Tudor’s diary, and newspaper articles, Weightman wonderfully recounts the life of Fredric Tudor and the birth of a completely new industry. There are also a number of pages loaded with pictures, illustrations, and advertisements that help you relate to the book’s arcane topic. So you’re not bogged down with ice trade information, the author also gives you a glimpse into Tudor’s private life, family matters, and other business ventures. The writing style is very easy to comprehend and flows nicely throughout the book. However, there are a few newspaper reports that tend to get a bit boring due to the way English was scribed back the early to mid 1800s. This book is a marvel on so many levels (history, marketing, engineering, business, etc.) without suffocating the reader with frivolous information. Along with Tudor’s entrepreneurship, I also admired his never ending determination, or maybe it was stubbornness, to keep his dream alive without letting anything get in his way. Perhaps this book could also be one of those self-help motivation books? Different and interesting, The Frozen Water Trade is a great read. – Denis Sheehan



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