It’s hot… you’re sweating, wearing next to nothing…
Go on! Enjoy one of the truest pleasures of life in the tropics!
… now what if it was served warm???
Enter American Leonard B. Smith, born in 1839, in Mill Creek, Maine:
A man who knows what’s up.
Smith became a cabin boy at 14 and worked his way up to Captain, by 23 he was sailing and trading around the Atlantic on his own schooner. Smith sailed into our Saint Anna Bay for the first time in 1876. He returned that very year locked and loaded with timber and ice from the Penobscot river (Maine).
Brilliant thinking, Smith!
Though his sea voyage took several weeks (last stretch in tropical heat!) Smith’s ice always arrived intact (packed in sawdust from Maine’s many timber-mills, naturally).
Smith set up two “ice houses” on the Saint Anna Bay wharf and sold ice for 2 Dutch cents a pound (a significant luxury at the time). Yu’i Kòrsou were skeptical at first, believing these novel cold drinks unhealthy… But Smith persevered, serving the skeptics cold beer, quenching their thirst and instantly converting them into veritable ice lovers.
Smith knew he had struck (ice) gold and returned with his wife and 4 children in 1877. He became the official Curaçao agent for the US company Joseph Foulke & Sons, Vice Consul of the US (1881) and US Consul (1884)… our US Consulate was considered one of the most important for US interests in the Caribbean at that time. (thanks for the ice!)
Smith continued his ice trade, adding cool boxes for private use. He also imported coal from the US to serve US and British steamships docking in Saint Anna Bay and he exported salt from Bonaire to the US.
Smith (must’ve been) a beloved, popular man and his many ambitious projects helped lay the foundation for the development of our modern infrastructure (some say the most sophisticated in the region)
– He led the construction of our original pontoon-bridge in 1888, physically connecting the Punda and Otrobanda side of Willemstad for the very first time. Our present pontoon bridge came after, in 1939.
– He provided Curaçao with waterworks (artesian wells near Wishi Marchena), unfortunately the water proved too hard (1895).
– He obtained a government concession to establish our very first electricity plant (1895). 2 years later, on September 18, 1897, our very first electric lamps were lit in Willemstad.
Other ambitious plans included the construction of a hotel in Otrobanda, aimed specifically at US tourists fleeing cold winters (hello Renaissance, Kura Hulanda, Howard Johnson!) and the construction of a dry dock. Unfortunately Smith died of a heart attack in 1898 (at 59) before he could undertake these projects.
Smith was one of Curaçao’s wealthiest inhabitants at the time of his death.
Thanks for the ice!
Sources: Dr. J. Hartog, Curaçao Short History (1979) and Caribseek.com.