Clarence 'Bob' Birdseye developed the
freezing of food as a means of preservation. Clarence Birdseye was
born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 9, 1886, and attended Amherst
College, majoring in biology. But Clarence didn't graduate.
Instead, he pursued a career as a field naturalist for the United
States government. The job took him far north, near the Arctic,
where Clarence would make a chilling discovery that changed the
history of the food industry
He noticed that freshly caught fish, when placed onto the Arctic
ice and exposed to the icy wind and frigid temperatures, froze
solid almost immediately. He learned, too, that the fish, when
thawed and eaten, still had all its fresh characteristics. He
concluded that quickly freezing certain items kept large crystals
from forming, preventing damage to their cellular structure.
That's when Clarence, the field naturalist, realized he had the
makings of a business.
In September 1922, Clarence organized his own company, Birdseye
Seafoods, Inc., where he began processing chilled fish fillets at
a plant near the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. In 1924, he
developed a process that later would become his great contribution
to the art of quick-freezing: packing dressed fish or other food
in cartons, then freezing the contents between two flat,
refrigerated surfaces under pressure. Realizing that he had
discovered the basis for an entirely new type of freezing
operation, Clarence decided to form a new company to capitalize on
On July 3, 1924, he organized the General Seafood Corporation,
with the financial help of Wetmore Hodges, Basset Jones, I.L.
Rice, William Gamage, and J.J. Barry. This was the beginning of
the frozen foods industry.
The birth of retail frozen foods occurred March 6, 1930, in
Springfield, Massachusetts. The "Springfield Experiment Test
Market" included twenty-six different vegetables, fruits, fish,
In 1934, BIRDS EYE contracted with the American Radiator
Corporation to manufacture inexpensive, low-temperature retail
display cooling equipment. This equipment displayed only BIRDS EYE
products and was leased to retailers for about eight dollars per
month. By 1944, BIRDS EYE had leased the first insulated railroad
cars designed for nationwide food distribution. The refrigerated
shipping industry was born.
Clarence Birdseye died October 8, 1956, but he lived to see his
revolutionary ideas become a thriving success.