In the mid-19th century, decades before home refrigeration became the norm, you could find ice clinking in glasses from India to the Caribbean, thanks to a global commodities industry that has since melted into obscurity: the frozen water trade.
In the cold Northeast of the United States, workers would cut ice from frozen ponds, haul it to port, put it on a ship and send it around the world on voyages that could last for months. Fourteen inches of ice was thick enough to support the team of workers and horses assembled for the harvest. These workers would clear off snow and debris then score the exposed surface to create a grid of squares.
Frederic Tudor got the ball rolling (or the cube sliding, as it were) for the whole global network. He was convinced that the local ice industry had global potential beyond regional food preservation. His perseverance eventually earned him the nickname “Ice King.”
Tudor set up shop on the banks of Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just about two miles northwest of Harvard Square. He found that sawdust was a remarkably good insulator for storing and transporting the ice. It was remarkably cheap as well, a byproduct from lumber mills in Maine.
Though he was a self-taught expert at supply chain logistics, Tudor’s true genius was as a marketer. He had to convince consumers that they needed ice not just to store food but also to cool drinks. His marketing endeavors took him to bars, where he would give free samples and let patrons experience how refreshing a chilled beverage could be.