Clarence Birdseye: Inventor, Naturalist & an Entrepreneur

Clarence Birdseye was born on December 9th, 1886. Lives have been very busy these days, and different technologies are developed to simplify our lives. Similarly, frozen foods are in high demand, preferred by employers who stay alone and students staying in dormitories.

Birdseye was an American inventor, entrepreneur, and naturalist who found the frozen food industry. Without him, we would not have convenient that bring frozen food in our daily life. His innovation and contribution to the food industry are remarkable.

He came up with this innovation on his own and discovered a way to flash-freeze method. From Brooklyn, Birdseye moved to Amherst College to begin his career with the U.S. Government.

Quick Facts of Clarence Birdseye

Full Name

Clarence Frank Birdseye

Nick Name

Bugs

Birth Date

December 9, 1886

Age of Death

69 years old (1886 – 1956)

Horoscope

Sagittarius

Birth Place

Brooklyn, New York, United States

Father’s Name

Clarence Frank Birdseye I

Mother’s Name

Ada Jane Underwood

Siblings

8 Siblings

Famous for

Developing a process for freezing foods in packages

Religion

Angelican/Episcopalian

Nationality

American

Ethnicity

White

Education

Montclair High School

Amherst College

Profession

Inventor

Engineer

Businessperson

Biologist

Marital Status

Married

Spouse

Eleanor Garrett

Net Worth

$11 Billion

Social Media

None

Early life of Clarence Birdseye

Brooklyn, New York, was born place of Clarence Birdseye. He was Ada Jane Underwood’s son who was a lawyer in an insurance firm, Clarence Frank Birdseye I. He was the sixth child of his parents. And He has eight siblings. They live in a small townhouse in Cobble Hill.

Since childhood, he was passionate about natural science and loved the preserved animal dead body by stuffing it or mounting it. When he was fourteen, they shifted to the suburb of Montclair, New Jersey, with his family, where he got enrolled in Montclair High School and graduated from there.

Clarence Birdseye an Inventor of Frozen Foods
Clarence Birdseye an Inventor of Frozen Foods

Clarance heard an English lord seeking wild game for his estate; he shipped dozens of muskrats he trapped on Long Island. For this, he got $9, with which he bought a shotgun.

Education of Clarence Birdseye

He matriculated from Amherst Collee, where his father and elder brothers studied. Later he joined the college to become a biologist and studied science, and was given a nickname as ‘bug’ as he used to collect insects.

Clarence arranged his fees to pay for his studies by selling frogs to the Bronx zoo as a food supply for snakes and trapping rare black rats in a local butcher shop for a genetics professor. Yet the money he made from his side business was not enough for his fee. After two years, he left college as his family and himself could not afford the expenses for his studies.

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His father and elder brother Kellogg were arrested for defrauding their employer, and it was not clear that this might also be the reason for Birdseye to leave his college. Birdseye moved to West to work at United States Agriculture Department. He took up the position of ‘assistant naturalist’ in New Mexico and Arizona.

Career Life of Clarence Birdseye

Birdseye later worked on project surveying animals in the American West. Clarence also worked with entomologist Willard Von Orsdel King during 1910 and 1911. That work required him to trap several small mammals so the king would remove their ticks and use them for research.

The research made them found out that the ticks were the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. His next assignment was to trap fur and carry out fish and wildlife. He traveled to Labrador, known as Canada currently in 1912.

Birdseye stayed there from 1912 till 1915, where he developed his interest in preserving and freezing food, especially fast freezing. With some of his Inuit contacts, he learned how to ice fish underneath a thick layer of ice with -400 C, and he found the fish get iced rapidly and still taste like fresh fish while thawed.

He then realized the frozen seafood being sold in New York was of lower quality than what he had learned in Labrador. While freezing fish or animal, if the freezing process was slow, ice crystals get formed inside the cell. And when the frozen food thaw, cellular fluid leaks from the damaged tissue.

Clarence Birdseye doing research
Clarence Birdseye doing research

This made the food taste not fresh, making it mushy or dry consistency. While on the other hand, if the food is freeze at a lower temperature rapidly, then the chance of crystals being formed in the cell would be less, which keeps the food reserve a fresh taste.

Birdseye’s Frozen Food

With this, Birdseye saw the opportunity to establish a business of frozen food. In 1922, he experimented on fish-freezing at the Clothes Refrigerating company and established his own company named Birdseye Seafoods Inc.

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His company froze fish at a temperature of -430C. But his idea and product were not successful in attracting many customers, so his company went bankrupt in 1924. But he didn’t give up. Rather came back with a much bigger spirit with the new freezing procedure of packing fish in cartons. He promoted his product through general Seafood Corporation.

Development of his invention

His new company shifted to Gloucester in Massachusetts in 1925. Clarence kept on discovering and working on new inventions called the double belt freezer. He used cold brine to chill two stainless steel belts that carried fish packages that quickly let the package freeze.

This procedure kept the product as tasty as in a while eating them fresh. Birdseye applied for a patent for his new device, and he got it approved with U.S. Patent #1,773,79. This was the beginning of his successful business. He was a motivated person, and this kept him inventing more machines.

With his every new invention, he applied for a patent. Each time he tried to improve the frozen process. And finally, in 1927, he decided not to stick to fish only but to try flash-freezing other food items as well. And they started producing frozen vegetables, chicken, meat and fruits.

But he sold his company in 1929 with a huge amount. They split Birdseye’s name as ‘Birds Eye‘ but yet kept it as the trademark. Even after he sold his company, he worked as a consultant and came up with new ideas on better freezing. Besides, he researched food dehydration which is called ‘waterless food.’

New Venture

Besides his innovation on frozen fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits, he sought new market opportunities and tried to do something new in agriculture. It upgraded farming in the United States for fresh fruits and vegetables. And the frozen orange juice was produced for the first time.

Clarence Birdseye experimenting frozen foods
Clarence Birdseye experimenting frozen foods

In 1934, Birdseye contracted with American Radiator Corp. to manufacture low-cost cooling equipment for Birds Eye foods for the first time. Working for ten long years, he hired the first insulated railroad cars to distribute food nationwide.

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Personal Life of Clarence Birdseye

Birdseye met Eleanor Garrett in Labrador. The couple got married in 1915 and they are blessed with a son named Kellogg. The inventor wrote a book ‘Wildflower‘ along with his wife.

Death

The inventor died on October 07th, 1956, at the Gramercy Park Hotel. He died out of a Heart attack at the age of 69. Clarence continued researching new opportunities and taking chances for twenty-five years. Later he worked on new inventions till he died and wrote a book with his wife on wildflowers.

Clarence’s ashes were scattered in the sea off coast in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 2012, Double day produced a biography of Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky’s Birdseye, ‘The Adventures of a Curious Man.’

Net Worth of Clarence Birdseye

Birdseye, the pioneer of turning tradition into a revolutionary process by introducing a new freezing food technology and preserving the fresh taste, created a multibillion-dollar industry.

The ‘Father of Frozen food,’ Birdseye sold his company and patents for £22 Million to Goldman Sachs and the Postum Company in 1929. As of 2021, the value of his business is approximately $335 Million.

Clarence Frank Birdseye Quotes

  • Any youth that makes security his main goal shackles himself at the very start of life’s race.
  • Worthwhile success is impossible on a 40-hour week.
  • Just because something has always been done in a certain way is never a sufficient reason for continuing to do it that way. Quite the contrary.
  • There are some people… who say opportunity went out with the horse and buggy. That is rubbish.
  • To discover better ways of doing things one must question existent methods and practices and be courageous enough to gamble on something new or something different.
  • I am never bored because I am always prying into something or other which fascinates me.

FAQ

  1. Who is Clarence Frank Birdseye?

He is the founder of the modern frozen food industry. 

2. Who was Clarence Birdseye’s parents?

Clarence Birdseye’s parents were Ada Jane Underwood and Clarence Frank Birdseye I. 

3. What did Clarence Birdseye invent?

Clarence Birdseye still worked for the company as a consultant and continued to invent newer and better-frozen food technology.

4. Where was Clarence Birdseye born?

Clarence Birdseye was born on December 9, 1886, in Brooklyn, New York.

5. Why is Clarence Birdseye famous?

Clarence Birdseye made one of the biggest innovations and contributions to the food industry when he found a way to flash-freeze food.

6. Who did Birdseye marry to?

In 1915, Birdseye married Eleanor Garrett while living in Labrador, and they had one son named Kellogg.

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