Clarence Birdseye

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Clarence Birdseye
Clarence Birdseye.jpg
BornClarence Frank Birdseye II
(1886-12-09)December 9, 1886
Brooklyn, New York City, US
DiedOctober 7, 1956(1956-10-07) (aged 69)
Gramercy Park Hotel
Manhattan, New York City, US
NationalityAmerican
Known forFrozen food
Parent(s)Clarence Frank Birdseye I
Ada Jane Underwood

Clarence Frank Birdseye II (December 9, 1886 – October 7, 1956) was an American inventor, entrepreneur, and naturalist, and is considered to be the founder of the modern frozen food industry.

Early life and Education[edit]

Clarence Birdseye was the sixth of nine children of Clarence Frank Birdseye, a lawyer in an insurance firm, and Ada Jane Underwood.[1] His first years were spent in Brooklyn, New York, where his family owned a comfortable townhouse in Cobble Hill. From childhood, Birdseye was obsessed with natural science and with Taxidermy, which he taught himself by correspondence. At the age of eleven he even put an ad in a paper offering courses in the subject.[2][3][4] When he was fourteen the family moved the suburb of Montclair, New Jersey, where Birdseye graduated from Montclair High School.[5] He matriculated at Amherst College, where his father and elder brother had earned degrees. There he excelled at science, although an average student in other subjects. His obsession with collecting insects led his college classmates to nickname him "Bugs", which he disliked, and perhaps at his instigation this was subsequently changed to the more neutral and colorless "Bob". Birdseye's biographer, Mark Kurlansky notes that after 1906, he was never again referred to as Clarence.[6] In the summer after his freshman year Birdseye worked for the United States Department of Agriculture in New Mexico and Arizona as an “assistant naturalist”, at a time when the agency was concerned with helping farmers and ranchers get rid of predators, chiefly coyotes.[7]

In 1908 the Birdseye family experienced a financial crisis "of an unclear nature,"[8] resulting in Birdseye's having to withdraw from college for lack of funds after completing only two years.[9] Nine years later, in 1917, both Birdseye's father and elder brother, Kellogg, would be charged and convicted in a scheme to defraud the firm for which they worked and sentenced to prison. It is not known whether this event was connected in any way to the difficulties that had forced Birdseye to leave Amherst. If nothing else, it can only have reinforced his life-long tendency to extreme reticence about his personal life noted by Kurlansky and others who wrote about him.

After leaving college, Birdseye was once again hired by the United States Agriculture Department, this time for a project surveying animals in the American West. He also worked with entomologist Willard Van Orsdel King (1888-1970)[10] in Montana, where, in 1910 and 1911, he captured several hundred small mammals from which King removed several thousand ticks for research, isolating them as the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a notable breakthrough. Birdseye's next field assignment, off and on from 1912 to 1915, was in Labrador in the Dominion of Newfoundland (now part of Canada), where he became further interested in food preservation by freezing, especially fast freezing; he purchased land at Muddy Bay where he built a ranch for raising foxes.[11] He was taught by the Inuit how to ice fish under very thick ice. In -40 °C weather, he discovered that the fish he caught froze almost instantly, and, when thawed, tasted fresh. He recognized immediately that the frozen seafood sold in New York was of lower quality than the frozen fish of Labrador, and saw that applying this knowledge would be lucrative. His journals from this period, which meticulously record these observations, are held in the Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.

Conventional freezing methods of the time were commonly done at higher temperatures, and thus the freezing occurred much more slowly, giving ice crystals more time to grow. It is now known that fast freezing produces smaller ice crystals, which cause less damage to the tissue structure. When 'slow' frozen foods thaw, cellular fluids leak from the ice crystal-damaged tissue, giving the resulting food a mushy or dry consistency upon preparation. Birdseye solved this problem.

In 1922, Birdseye conducted fish-freezing experiments at the Clothel Refrigerating Company, and then established his own company, Birdseye Seafoods Inc., to freeze fish fillets with chilled air at -43 °C (-45 °F). In 1924, his company went bankrupt for lack of consumer interest in the product. That same year he developed an entirely new process for commercially viable quick-freezing: packing fish in cartons, then freezing the contents between two refrigerated surfaces under pressure. Birdseye created a new company, General Seafood Corporation, to promote this method.

Industrial development[edit]

In 1925, his General Seafood Corporation moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts. There it employed Birdseye's newest invention, the double belt freezer, in which cold brine chilled a pair of stainless steel belts carrying packaged fish, freezing the fish quickly. His invention was subsequently issued as US Patent #1,773,079, marking the beginning of today's frozen foods industry.[12] Birdseye took out patents on other machinery, which cooled even more quickly, so that only small ice crystals could form and cell membranes were not damaged. In 1927, he began to extend the process beyond fish to quick-freezing of meat, poultry, fruit, and vegetables.

In 1929, Birdseye sold his company and patents for $22 million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Company, which eventually became General Foods Corporation, and which founded the Birds Eye Frozen Food Company. Birdseye continued to work with the company, further developing frozen food technology. In 1930, the company began sales experiments in 18 retail stores around Springfield, Massachusetts, to test consumer acceptance of quick-frozen foods. The initial product line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets. Consumers liked the new products and today this is considered the birth of retail frozen foods. The "Birds Eye" name remains a leading frozen-food brand. Birdseye was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.[13]

Death[edit]

Birdseye died on October 7, 1956, of a heart attack at the Gramercy Park Hotel. He was 69 years old.[14] Birdseye was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea off Gloucester, Massachusetts.[15]

In 2012 the first book-length biography of Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky's Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, was published by Doubleday.[7]

Birdseye inventions related to food products[edit]

  • Method of preserving piscatorial products, 1924.[16]
  • Brining machine, 1925.[17]
  • Method in preparing foods and the product obtained thereby, 1926.[18]
  • Refrigerating apparatus; 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1935.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]
  • Method of packaging fruit juices, 1930.[27]
  • Bin for storage of fish, 1931.[28]
  • Refrigerating apparatus and method of refrigerating food products, 1931.[29]
  • Fish scaling device, 1933.[30]
  • Consumer package of meat products, 1933.[31]
  • Food product and method of preparing the same, 1934.[32]
  • Freezing and packaging food products, 1934.[33]
  • Method and apparatus for freezing food products, 1935.[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kurlansky, Mark (2012). Birdseye : The Adventures of a Curious Man (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0385527055.
  2. ^ "Are people snobbish about frozen food?". BBC News. October 21, 2013.
  3. ^ "The History of Frozen Foods - Clarence Birdseye". Inventors.about.com. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Who Made America? - Innovators - Clarence Birdseye". Pbs.org. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  5. ^ Mattern, Joanne (2011). Clarence Birdseye: Frozen Food Innovator. ABDO Publishing Company. p. 6.
  6. ^ Kurlansky, p. 33
  7. ^ a b Janet Maslin (April 25, 2012). "The Inventor Who Put Frozen Peas on Our Tables". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Kurlansky, p.34
  9. ^ Kelly, Mike (2013). "Clarence Birdseye In Labrador". The Consecrated Eminence: blog of The Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  10. ^ Jackson, Tom (2015). Chilled: How Refrigeration Changed the World and Might Do So Again. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1472911421.
  11. ^ Kennedy, John C. (2015). Encounters: An Anthropological History of Southeastern Labrador. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 220. ISBN 9780773583443.
  12. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (12 August 1930). Method of preparing food products. U.S. Patent No. 1,773,079. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  13. ^ "Clarence Birdseye: Hall of Famer". Inc.com. 2005-02-11. Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  14. ^ "Clarence Birdseye Is Dead at 69. Inventor of Frozen-Food Process. Developed Method for Quick Freezing and Also Devised System for Dehydrating". The New York Times. October 9, 1956. Retrieved 2008-07-16. Clarence Birdseye, the inventor of a process for quick freezing foods, that made his name a household word in the United States, died Sunday night of a heart ailment in his residence at the Gramercy Park Hotel. He was 69 years old.
  15. ^ Kurlansky, Mark (2014). Frozen in Time: Clarence Birdseye's Outrageous Idea about Frozen Food. Random House Children's Books. p. 149. ISBN 978-0385743884. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  16. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (14 October 1924). Method of preserving piscatorial products. U.S. Patent No. 1,511,824. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  17. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (17 November 1925). Brining machine. U.S. Patent No. 1,561,503. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  18. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (30 November 1926). Method in preparing foods and the product obtained thereby. U.S. Patent No. 1,608,832. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  19. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (12 August 1930). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,773,081. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  20. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (28 April 1931). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,802,369. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  21. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (8 September 1931). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,822,077. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  22. ^ Hall, Bicknell, and Clarence Birdseye. (8 September 1931). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,822,123. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  23. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (8 September 1931). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,822,124. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  24. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (4 October 1932). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,880,232. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  25. ^ Hall, Bicknell, and Clarence Birdseye. (25 April 1933). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 1,905,131. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  26. ^ Hall, Bicknell, and Clarence Birdseye. (17 September 1935). Refrigerating apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 2,014,550. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  27. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (9 September 1930). Method of packaging fruit juices. U.S. Patent No. 1,775,549. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  28. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (12 May 1931). Bin for storage of fish. U.S. Patent No. 1,805,354. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  29. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (4 August 1931). Refrigerating apparatus and method of refrigerating food products. U.S. Patent No. 1,817,890. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  30. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (14 March 1933). Fish scaling device. U.S. Patent No. 1,901,625. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  31. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (29 August 1933). Consumer package of meat products. U.S. Patent No. 1,924,903. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  32. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (17 April 1934). Food product and method of preparing the same. U.S. Patent No. 1,955,484. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  33. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (16 October 1934). Freezing and packaging food products. U.S. Patent No. 1,977,373. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  34. ^ Birdseye, Clarence. (23 April 1935). Method and apparatus for freezing food products. U.S. Patent No. 1,998,431. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Clarence Birdseye" - Food Engineering. September 2003. p. 66.
  • About.com biography
  • History of Rocky Mountain Labs, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease [1]
  • Birdseye, Clarence & Eleanor G. (1951). Growing Woodland Plants. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
  • Mark Kurlansky (2012). Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man. Doubleday. p. 272. ISBN 978-0385527057.

External links[edit]