#367 The Ice Craze: How the Ice Business Transformed New York

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By Tom Meyers and Bowery Boys Media. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

New York City on ice — a tribute to the forgotten industry which kept the city cool in the age before refrigeration and air conditioning.

Believe it or not, ice used to be big business.

In 1806 a Boston entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor cut blocks of ice from a pond on his family farm and shipped it to Martinique, a Caribbean county very unfamiliar with frozen water. He was roundly mocked — why would people want ice in areas where they can’t store it? — but the thirst for the frozen luxury soon caught on, especially in southern United States.

New Yorkers really caught the ice craze in the 1830s thanks to an exceptionally clear lake near Nyack. Within two decades, shops and restaurants regularly ordered ice to serve and preserve foods. And with the invention of the icebox, people could even begin buying it up for home use.

The ice business was so successful that — like oil and coal — it became a monopoly. Charles W. Morse and his American Ice Company controlled most of the ice in the northeast United States by the start of the 20th century.

He was known as the Ice King. And he had one surprising secret friend — the Mayor of New York City Robert A. Van Wyck.

PLUS: The 19th century technologies that allowed American to harvest and store ice. The Iceman cometh!

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