831. “Curaçao Dream”: Leonard B. Smith

It’s hot… you’re sweating, wearing next to nothing… go on!

Enjoy one of the purest pleasures of life in the Caribbean…

… but what if it was served warm???

That’s where American Leonard B. Smith (born in 1839 in Mill Creek, Maine) comes in.

Just look at him! He clearly knows what’s up.

Leonard B. Smith. Source: caribseek.com.

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 Curaçao’s Saint Anna Bay for the first time in 1876. He clearly saw an opportunity and returned that very same year locked and loaded with timber and ice from the Penobscot river in Maine.

Though Smith’s sea voyage took several weeks — with his last stretch in tropical heat! — Smith’s ice always arrived intact because he would pack it in sawdust from Maine’s timbermills.

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 and kept 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). In fact, Curaçao’s US Consulate was considered one of the most important in the Caribbean at that time.

Smith continued to import ice from Maine and expanded his trade over time. He added makeshift ‘cool boxes’ for private use. Then he imported coal from the US to serve US and British steamships docking in Saint Anna Bay. He also exported salt from neighboring island Bonaire to the US for good measure.

Smith was a visionary and his many ambitious projects helped lay the foundation for the development of Curaçao’s modern infrastructure — some say the most sophisticated in the Caribbean region.

Some of Smith’s accomplishments include:

  • Connecting the Punda and Otrobanda side of Willemstad for the very first time by constructing Curaçao’s original pontoon-bridge in 1888 (Curaçao’s present pontoon bridge came in 1939.)
  • Curaçao’s first hotel in Otrobanda for US tourists fleeing cold winters.
  • Curaçao’s first waterworks.
  • Curaçao’s first electricity plant.

Smith was one of Curaçao’s wealthiest inhabitants when he passed away in 1898.

Sources: Dr. J. Hartog, Curaçao Short History (1979) and Caribseek.com.

 

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

Hi! I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in Manhattan but sometimes miss my first awesome island. Thanks for visiting!

23 comments

  1. antoniette statius

    amazing man. amazing history.

  2. Philip

    It might be interesting to know, Carolina, that LBSmith had a child with my grandmother “Ma Lola” Rademaker, a strapping young lady at the time. Her name? You guessed it: Emma. This daughter married an Arab immigrant, Elias Dip, and they had three children, one of whom was the famous jurist Dr. Carlos Dip. Since Queen Emma only became regentesse two years after the bridge was opened, one might wonder whether it was really named after her.

    • JenniferRandolph

      Hello Philip- I am L.B. Smith’s great-great-granddaughter through his son Ralph Gardner Smith. I had no idea that he had other children. Do you have any more details you could provide? I am working on that part of our family tree. I have also found a claim that he fathered a child with a Henriette Raimunda/Poulina, but have been unable to get any details. I am curious to know more about the other women in his life and his relationship with them. I was just in Curacao for the first time, and unaware I had family through LB Smith on the island.
      Jennifer

      • Aqmar Abraham

        Jennifer, I great great grandmother Had also a daughter with LB Smith. Those these it was not nice to talk about that because mr. Smith was a married man. Is there a way that we can contact each other. aqmar_abraham@hotmail.com +297-7300440

    • Aqmar Abraham

      Phillip please contact at aqmar_abraham@hotmail.com whatsapp: +297-7300440

  3. Pingback: 745. Our Swinging Old Lady: Queen Emma | 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao

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  5. mayra

    hola soy de caracas venezuela leonard burligton smith era mi tatara buelo soy bisnieta de arthur smith en este momento me encuentro realizando mi arbol genealogico me encantaria poder tener contacto con personas que me puedan dar la mayor informacion posible mucho sabria agradecer.

  6. Robin

    He lived in my old family house in Brewer Maine. There’s a plaque on the front which states that. So interesting.

  7. Jorge Smith

    Hello Jennifer como estas mi nombre es Jorge Smith Yo soy bisnieto de Arthur Smith hijo de Leonard estoy iniciando una investigacion sobre la familia y me gustaría intercambiar información contigo. Sobre nuestro Arbol Genealogico.

    • Aqmar Abraham

      Hola Jorge, como nos podemos contactar? Mi bisa-abuela tuvo una hija con el senor Smith. Eso dicen! Mi facebook. aqmar abraham o WhatsApp +297-7300440

  8. cesar marcano

    vivo en venezuela y mi abuelo materno se llamo samuel johannes smith su padre fue arthur smith quien a su vez fue hijo de leonard burlington smith soy uno de sus descendientes directos el era mi tatarabuelo

  9. Jorge

    Hola soy de Venezuela y soy bisnieto de Athur Smith hijo de Leonard Smith. Y estoy invetigando para completar mi arbol geonologico mucha sabria agradecer toda información al respecto.

  10. mayra

    hola jennifer soy mayra contactame por el facebook como mayra baez

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