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Captains Of Industry Or Men Of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money - Frederick Tudor

1. Preface

2. David Maydole

3. Ichabod Washburn

4. Elihu Burritt

5. Michael Reynolds

6. Major Robert Pike

7. George Graham

8. John Harrison

9. Peter Faneuil

10. Chauncey Jerome

11. Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest

12. Israel Putnam

13. George Flower

14. Edward Coles

15. Peter H. Burnett

16. Gerrit Smith

17. Peter Force

18. John Bromfield

19. Frederick Tudor

20. Myron Holley

21. The Founders Of Lowell

23. John Smedley

24. Richard Cobden

25. Henry Bessemer

26. John Bright

27. Thomas Edward

28. Robert Dick

29. John Duncan

30. James Lackington

31. Horace Greeley's Start

32. James Gordon Bennett

33. Three John Walters

34. George Hope

35. Sir Henry Cole

36. Charles Summers

37. William B. Astor

38. Peter Cooper

39. Paris Duverney

40. Sir Rowland Hill

41. Marie-Antoine Careme

42. Wonderful Walker

43. Sir Christopher Wren

44. Sir John Rennie

45. Sir Moses Montefiore

46. Marquis Of Worcester

47. An Old Dry-goods Merchant's Recollections



Edward Everett used to relate a curious anecdote of the time when he was
the American minister at London. He was introduced one day to an Eastern
prince, who greeted him with a degree of enthusiasm that was altogether
unusual and unexpected. The prince launched into eulogium of the United
States, and expressed a particular gratitude for the great benefit
conferred upon the East Indies by Mr. Everett's native Massachusetts.
The American minister, who was a good deal puzzled by this effusion,
ventured at length to ask the prince what special benefit Massachusetts
had conferred upon the East Indies, wondering whether it was the
missionaries, or the common school system, or Daniel Webster's Bunker
Hill oration.

"I refer," said the prince, "to the great quantity of excellent ice
which comes to us from Boston."

Mr. Everett bowed with his usual politeness, but was much amused at the
excessive gratitude of the prince for the service named.

The founder of this foreign ice business, which has now attained such
large proportions, was a Boston merchant named Frederick Tudor, son of
that Colonel William Tudor who studied law under John Adams, and who
served his country on the staff of General Washington, and afterwards
became a judge. Frederick Tudor, who was born in 1783, the year of the
peace between England and the United States, entered early into
business, being at twenty-two already owner of a vessel trading with the
West Indies.

It was in 1805 that the idea of exporting ice first occurred to him--an
idea which, as he was accustomed to relate in his old age, was received
with derision by the whole town as a "mad project." He had made his
calculations too carefully, however, to be disturbed by a little
ridicule; and that same year he sent out his first cargo of a hundred
and thirty tons, to the Island of Martinique.

The result justified his confidence. The ice arrived in perfect
condition, and he was encouraged to follow up his single cargo with many
others larger and more profitable. During the war of 1812 business was
somewhat interrupted by the English cruisers, which were ever on the
alert for prizes in the West Indian waters, but, after peace was
declared, his trade increased rapidly. He supplied ice to Charleston and
New Orleans also, those cities at first requiring but a ship-load each
per annum, although the demand increased so rapidly that a few years
later New Orleans alone consumed thirty cargoes.

Almost from the first, Mr. Tudor had believed that ice could be
transported as safely and profitably to Calcutta as to Havana; but he
could not bring others to share this opinion--at least, not to the point
of risking money upon it. It was not, therefore, until 1834, twenty-nine
years later than his Martinique experiment, that he sent his first cargo
of one hundred and eighty tons of ice to India. Notwithstanding a waste
of one third of the whole cargo during the voyage, he was able to sell
this Massachusetts ice at one half the price charged for the
artificially frozen ice formerly used in Calcutta by the few families
who could afford such a luxury.

The cold commodity which he provided met, therefore, with a warm welcome
from the English inhabitants. They recognized the boon afforded them,
and expressed their gratitude by raising a subscription and presenting
to the enterprising Yankee merchant a fire-proof building in which to
store his ice. He met them in the same spirit of wise liberality, and
sold the article at no more than a reasonable profit--about three cents
a pound--which enabled the great body of English residents to use the
ice habitually. Mr. Tudor used to boast that in Jamaica he sold the best
Wenham ice at half the price which an inferior article brought in
London; and even at Calcutta he made ice cheaper than it was in London
or Paris. On the passage to the East Indies, ice is four or five months
at sea, traverses sixteen thousand miles of salt water, and crosses the
equator twice; and on its arrival it is stored in massive double-walled
houses, which are covered by four or five separate roofs. It has also to
be unloaded in a temperature of ninety to one hundred degrees.
Notwithstanding all this, the inhabitants of the most distant tropical
seaports are supplied with ice every day of the year at the moderate
price mentioned above.

It was Frederick Tudor also who originated and developed the best
methods of cutting, packing, storing, and discharging ice, so as to
reduce the waste to the minimum. I am assured by a gentleman engaged in
the business that the blocks of ice now reach Calcutta, after the long
voyage from Boston, with a waste scarcely noticeable. The vessels are
loaded during the cold snaps of January, when water will freeze in the
hold of a vessel, and when the entire ship is penetrated with the
intensest cold. The glittering blocks of ice, two feet thick, at a
temperature below zero, are brought in by railroad from the lakes, and
are placed on board the ships with a rapidity which must be seen to be
appreciated. The blocks are packed in sawdust, which is used very much
as mortar is used in a stone wall. Between the topmost layer of ice and
the deck there is sometimes a layer of closely packed hay, and sometimes
one of barrels of apples. It has occasionally happened that the profit
upon the apples has paid the freight upon the ice, which usually amounts
to about ten thousand dollars, or five dollars a ton.

The arrival of an ice ship at Calcutta is an exhilarating scene. Clouds
of dusky natives come on board to buy the apples, which are in great
request, and bring from ten to thirty cents each, according to the
supply. Happy is the native who has capital enough to buy a whole barrel
of the fruit. Off he trudges with it on his back to the place of sale,
or else puts it on a little cart and peddles the apples about the
streets. In a day or two that portion of the cargo has disappeared, and
then the ice is to be unloaded. It was long before a native could be
induced to handle the crystal blocks. Tradition reports that they ran
away affrighted, thinking the ice was something bewitched and fraught
with danger. But now they come on board in a long line, and each of them
takes a huge block of ice upon his head and conveys it to the adjacent
ice-house, moving with such rapidity that the blocks are exposed to the
air only a few seconds. Once deposited there, the waste almost ceases
again, and the ice which cost in Boston four dollars a ton is worth
fifty dollars.

When Frederick Tudor had been employed twenty-five years in this trade,
finding it inconvenient to be separated from the great body of
merchants, he embarked again in general mercantile business, by way of
re-uniting himself to his former associates. The experiment resulted in
ruinous losses. In less than three years he was a bankrupt, and owed his
creditors two hundred and ten thousand dollars more than he could pay.
The ice business being still profitable and growing, it was proposed to
him that he should conduct it as the agent of his creditors, retaining a
specified sum per annum for his personal expenses. To this he objected,
and said to them:--

"Allow me to proceed, and I will work for you better than I can under
any restriction. Give me the largest liberty, and I will pay the whole
in time with interest."

He was then fifty-two years of age, and he had undertaken to pay an
indebtedness, the mere interest of which was about ten thousand dollars
a year. By the time he had got fairly at work the treachery of an agent
whom he had raised from poverty to wealth lost him his Havana monopoly,
his principal source of profit. Then it became necessary to buy land
bordering the lakes from which he gathered ice, and to erect in
Calcutta, New Orleans, and elsewhere expensive and peculiarly
constructed buildings for storage. Occasionally, too, he experienced the
losses and adverse incidents from which no business is exempt.
Nevertheless, in fourteen years from the date of his bankruptcy he had
paid his debts, principal and interest, amounting to two hundred and
eighty thousand dollars, besides having acquired a large quantity of
real estate, some of which had increased in value tenfold. Thus, while
paying his debts, and in the very process of paying, and while thinking
only of his creditors' interest, he had gained for himself a very large
fortune. He continued an ice merchant for more than fifty years; or, as
he said himself:--

"I began this trade in the youthful hopes attendant on the age of
twenty-two. I have followed it until I have a head with scarcely a hair
that is not white."

It was this enterprising merchant who may be said to have created the
beautiful seaside retreat near Boston called Nahant, where he invented
many ingenious expedients for protecting trees and shrubs from the east
winds which lacerate that rock-bound coast. His gardens and plantations
in Nahant were famous many years before his death. He died in 1864, aged
eighty-one, leaving to his children and to his native State a name which
was honorable when he inherited it, and the lustre of which his life

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