Thomas Jefferson Papers

Frederic Tudor to Thomas Jefferson, 14 December 1812

From Frederic Tudor

Boston Decr 14th1 1812


I have for several years past occupied myself at leisure in endeavouring to ascertain the principles on which depend the swift sailing of ships. The circumstances of the times have induced me to persue my researches & I think I have arrived at some just conclusions. The discovery which I think I have made consists in making a distinction between the part which gives buoyancy & Keel so as to take the greatest advantage of both.

I have taken the liberty of enclosing to you some minutes of my plans & should make an apology for so doing but from your known disposition of encouraging useful novelty I am induced to think you will not require one.

If you should take the trouble of looking over the few sheets which I have the honour to inclose & you should think me correct your favourable opinion will aid me much in an application which I propose to make to the executive department of the Goverment to have my model carried into effect in one or more of the line of battle ships or frigates which congress may determine to build.

I have the honour to be your very humb. Sert

Frederic Tudor

RC (MHi); between dateline and salutation: “To Thomas Jefferson Esqr late President of the United States. Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Dec. 1812 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: [Tudor], Some Memorandums, by which it is attempted to be shewn that An Improved Model may be adopted in the Construction of Ships, by a new application of well-known principles ([Boston?], 1812), in which Tudor assesses the relative merits of different forms of hull for increasing speed and arrives at a combination of the dolphin shape and the waterfowl or duck shape, the former to glide easily through the water and the latter to afford buoyancy (pamphlet in DN-AC, with covering letter from Tudor to Samuel L. Mitchill, 22 Dec. 1812).

Frederic Tudor (1783–1864), merchant, pioneered in the far-flung transportation and sale of ice from his native Boston, starting with shipments to Martinique in 1806 and to Cuba the following year. When the Embargo and the War of 1812 interrupted his nascent ice trade, he farmed in Saugus, Massachusetts. Struggling to develop markets for ice, Tudor was often impecunious and occasionally imprisoned for debt, but he continued to expand his enterprise to additional localities and began shipping perishable foods packed in ice. The venture prospered by 1821, following his establishment of an icehouse in New Orleans. The following decade he expanded his ice trade to India. An inveterate entrepreneur and inventor, Tudor tried to harness tidal energy, established a saltworks, manufactured graphite crucibles, speculated disastrously in coffee futures, constructed an amusement park, and brought the first locomotive to Boston. When he died in Boston, the Tudor Ice Company was valued at over one million dollars, with outlets in New Orleans, Havana, Jamaica, Brazil, India, and Singapore (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Carl Seaburg and Stanley Paterson, The Ice King: Frederic Tudor and His Circle, ed. Alan Seaburg [2003]; Boston Daily Advertiser, 8 Feb. 1864 [gives variant birth year of 1782]).

Tudor patented his design for a swift sailing ship on 17 Dec. 1812, but the resulting prototype, the Black Swan, performed poorly in trials (List of Patents description begins A List of Patents granted by the United States from April 10, 1790, to December 31, 1836, 1872 description ends , 118; Seaburg and Paterson, Ice King, 46–7).

1Reworked from “12th.”

Index Entries

  • boats; design of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • patents; of F. Tudor search
  • Some Memorandums, by which it is attempted to be shewn that An Improved Model may be adopted in the Construction of Ships (Tudor) search
  • Tudor, Frederic; and ship design search
  • Tudor, Frederic; identified search
  • Tudor, Frederic; letters from search
  • Tudor, Frederic; Some Memorandums, by which it is attempted to be shewn that An Improved Model may be adopted in the Construction of Ships search