The Invention of the Ice Cube

Abstract Ice


Chances are, you haven’t had much cause to wonder about the bright spark behind the invention of the ice cube – after all, they’re one of those useful commodities that always just seem to be there when you need them. But, like just about every human invention, there’s a fascinating history behind the invention of ice cubes, and looking a little deeper into it uncovers a 19th Century ice trade which also lies behind our modern refrigeration processes.

Anybody who runs or owns a store that relies on modern refrigeration systems to keep stock fresh and cool should spare a thought for Frederick Tudor, a man who was generally thought to be somewhat eccentric when he started exporting ice from New England in 1806.

Luckily for us, Tudor decided to persevere, and from his efforts sprung first the ice trade and then the ice cube: the first of these had an enormous impact on the world of commercial trade before dwindling with the invention of more high-tech cooling options while, of course, the second is as popular today as it ever was.

All About Ice

Considering how important the ice trade has been, it may seem surprising that Frederick Tudor isn’t exactly a household name. After initially exporting ice as a luxury good for wealthy buyers in warmer parts of the world, traders were able to start using their shipments of ice to export other products which needed to stay fresh: fish, vegetables and dairy produce being prime candidates.

And as for the ice cube? Although Tudor’s actions had started a trend for shaped slices of ice in upmarket cocktail bars, it was a couple of centuries before this would really take off. But, as people started looking back to the past for new drinks recipes, they realised just how versatile the seemingly humble ice cube can be – and now they’re a staple part of many favourite beverages.

Ice Cubes

While refrigeration might not be as romantic as large blocks of ice making their way across the ocean, it is certainly more convenient: although the ice trade made Tudor a millionaire, so called ice famines could leave shopkeepers in a desperate position.

Don’t take these modern conveniences for granted! Next time your refrigeration system is playing up, be thankful that you can call a refrigeration engineer in Edinburgh, instead of waiting for a new shipment of ice to make it half way across the world.

If you do have an issue, or want to discuss the many different systems – including ice machines – that we can offer, simply get in touch today: give us a call at 0131 210 0024 or contact us online.


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