How Clarence Birdseye borrowed the concept of refrigeration from the Eskimos and sold it to the rest of us.
They say a great salesman can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. In the case of Clarence Birdseye, he borrowed the concept of refrigeration from the Eskimos and sold it to the rest of us. In the early years of the last century, when Arctic exploration captured the imagination of the American people, a young Birdseye first voyaged north on a government expedition. There, he observed how native fishermen could delay cooking their catch for days because the fish froze quickly in the air after being plucked from the water. Inspired, Birdseye returned from his polar sojourn and founded his now famous company, which made and sold frozen fish dinners in thin cardboard containers. His patented process for freezing fish propelled the company to success. So did his marketing savoir faire. In 1934, Birdseye leased a display-case freezer to a grocer for installation in his store. When the concept was adopted nationwide, Birdseye made cool millions.
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman