Thursday, June 17, 2010

The forgotten American ice trade with India

There is a very interesting article in the present issue of Pragati The Indian National Interest Review by Jayakrishnan Nair:

Some excerpts (highly recommend reading full article):

  • He was even jailed a few times for being in debt.
  • On May 12, 1833, under the captaincy of Littlefield, the Tuscany set sail for Calcutta. Tudor did not go on the ship, but instead had William Rogers as his agent. During this long journey, the crew bathed in sea water, ate dinner of pea soup, goose and cranberry sauce and plum pudding. For meat they carried pigs, goat, geese and chickens which was supplemented with shark caught from the sea. When a ship passed by, they sent messages to family members.
  • The slush was available for six weeks at a rate of 4 pence per pound and now pure Boston ice—so pure that it astonished scientists like Michael Faraday—was available all year around for three pence a pound. Tudor also had a subscription model which helped him sell ice faster: if you bought one ton every day, the price was halved.
  • After falling out with his partners—Austin and Rogers—Tudor sent another ship with 150 tons of ice, 359 barrels of apples, a new agent and a letter to William Bentinck asking for a monopoly in the Calcutta trade. The ship reached Calcutta after 163 days with just two tons of ice and 359 barrels of rotten apples. It seemed as if the end was near, but what saved him was the letter to Bentinck and the enthusiasm of the British community in Calcutta.
  • During those times the quantity each person could buy was reduced and if he needed more, he had to get a doctor’s certificate.
  • The ice houses at Calcutta and Bombay no longer exist but the one in Madras, built in 1841, still does as a testimony to a forgotten trade.
More readings

1, 2

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