831. “Curaçao Dream”: Leonard B. Smith

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.

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 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!

Penobscot River in Maine.

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.

Queen Emma pontoon bridge. Source: http://www.traveladventures.org.

– 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.

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in and love Manhattan, but sometimes miss my first Awesome island...

14 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

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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.

    • Philip Rademaker

      Los dos primeros hijos de mi abuela, Dolorita Rademaker, eran hijos naturales de Leonard Burlington Smith. Eran Emma Felicia, en 1893 y Charles Leonardo, en 1896.

    • JenniferRandolph

      Hello Mayra- Yo soy bisnieta de Ralph Smith, el hijo menor do Leonard B. Smith. Me encantaria de cambiar informacion contigo sobre nuestra famila. Jennifer

      • 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.

      • Jorge

        Hola jenifer yo soy bisnieto de arthur smith hijo de leonard me gustaría intercambiar información contigo.

  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.

  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.

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