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Ice from Massachusetts once cooled colonists in Calcutta, India. In the spring of 1833, large blocks of ice - 180 tons of it - from frozen ponds near Boston were loaded onto a specially fitted sailing ship in Charlestown, Mass. Thick boards, sawdust, crushed bark, and hay insulated the cargo. Four months later, after a 16,000-mile voyage, the Tuscany arrived in Calcutta to instant acclaim. Shipping ice to India was profitable until 1880, when the British colony got its first artificial refrigeration plants. In its heyday, New England ice was sold throughout Europe and the West Indies as well as India. In America, natural ice was in demand through the 1920s, until most homes had electricity - and home refrigerators.

Source: 'The Frozen-Water Trade: A True Story,' by Gavin Weightman (Hyperion, 2003).

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