I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

This post was written by Tammy Kiter, Manuscript Reference Librarian

Who among us doesn’t enjoy a cold, creamy treat on a hot summer day? In honor of July being National Ice Cream month, I thought we’d take a little trip down creamery lane to celebrate ice cream in all its delicious glory.

Rivington's New York Gazatteer, November 25, 1773, N-YHS Newspaper Collection.
Rivington’s New York Gazatteer, November 25, 1773, N-YHS Newspaper Collection.

It is estimated that by the 2nd century BC, Alexander the Great was enjoying ice flavored with honey and nectar. Ice cream was widespread among major Arab cities in the 10th century, where they combined milk or cream with yogurt, rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. When Marco Polo returned to Italy, he brought a recipe that resembled today’s sorbet. In Paris, Procopio Cuto created a crowd-pleasing gelato for his café patrons in the late 17th century.

Recipes for ice cream began to appear in England and America during the early 18th century. Among the earliest were the detailed instructions provided in Mrs. Mary Eale’s Receipts, published in London, in 1718. The Oxford English Dictionary included a definition for ice cream in 1744.

On November 25, 1773, Rivington’s New York Gazetteer featured  the first advertisement for ice cream in the United States. It announced Philip Lenzi’s arrival from London and included a list of fine treats he had available for purchase, including ice cream.

Even Presidents loved ice cream. Accounts show that George Washington bought an ice cream machine for Mount Vernon in 1790 and Dolley Madison served strawberry ice cream at her husband’s Inaugural Ball in 1813.

Advertisement for White Mountain hand-cranked ice cream machine, circa 1900, PR 031, Bella Landauer Collection
Advertisement for White Mountain hand-cranked ice cream machine, circa 1900, PR 031, Bella Landauer Collection

The Quakers also helped introduce ice cream to American colonists when they brought their recipes with them to the U.S.. York County, PA, is known as the birthplace of commercial ice cream production. C. Jacob Fussel, a Quaker from Maryland, built an ice house and ice cream factory with his partner in 1852, creating the first commercially produced and distributed ice cream in the United States.

George Washington may have been the father of our county, but Augustus Jackson is often referred to as “The Father of Ice Cream”. An African American from Philadelphia, PA, he worked as a chef in the White House before returning to his hometown in the 1830s to establish a successful ice cream business and invent a popular technique for manufacturing ice cream.

In 1843, Nancy M. Johnson invented the first hand-cranked ice cream freezer. Over the years, many improvements were made to the original design and electric ice cream makers have gained popularity since the 1960s. White Mountain has been a leader in the industry since 1853. This small advertising card for White Mountain features a replica of their hand-cranked ice cream machine from the early 20th century. The front features their logo and the reverse shows the internal mechanisms of the machine. When opened, the card reveals a pop-up style image with a woman handing the reader a bowl of ice cream.

Entry from shipboard journal of Marcus L. Woodard, April 5, 1861, MS 2869, BV Woodward, Marcus L.

Perhaps a variation on the famous line “One (ice cream), if by land, and two (ice creams), if by sea” would be applicable to the crew upon the Clipper ship, Sunrise, in 1861. In the following entry of his journal, shipmate Marcus L. Woodard writes: “Capt. Raulett tried his skill at making Ice-cream and I never eat better than that which he turned out. He had a regular freezer and plenty of ‘Bordens condensed milk’, plenty of ice and we had for once just as much Ice-cream as we wanted to eat”.

Thanks to German engineer, Carl von Linde, and his development of industrial refrigeration in the 1870s, mass production of ice cream became a possibility and the industry was well on its way to pleasing a broader audience. Prior to the commercialization of ice cream, it was often only available to the wealthy or reserved for special occasions.

Ice Cream and Strawberry Festival, 1863, SY 1863 no. 88

Ice cream even became the inspiration for celebrations and charity fund raisers, such as this Ice Cream and Strawberry Festival, held in New York, in 1863.

Although it may sound like an insult today, the term “soda jerk” became popular in the late 19th/early 20th century, as soda fountain shops sprung up across the country. The soda jerk put flavored syrup into a specially designed glass and added carbonated soda and ice cream. Sundaes were another ice cream parlor favorite. It is possible that the ice cream sundae was invented to circumvent blue laws in some areas that prohibited serving soda on Sundays.

Your Vogue Ice Cream Fun-to-do Book, circa 1930s, PR 031 Bella Landauer Collection.

Italian immigrant, Italo Marchiony, submitted a patent for ice cream cones, originally called “cornucopias”, in 1903. However, legend has it that the modern cone was invented at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, in 1904, by a vendor who’d run out of bowls and began serving ice cream in rolled-up waffles.

Amazingly, this children’s activity book, published in the 1930s by Consolidated Dairy Products Co, Inc., survived without a drop of ice cream on it.

The U.S. Navy commissioned an Ice Cream Barge for military members serving in the Pacific during WWII. An estimated 1,500 gallons of patriotic goodness were pumped out every hour!

As diverse as the people that make up this country, so too are your options for choosing flavors and textures of ice cream. Non-dairy varieties even exist for vegans or those who are lactose intolerant. Statistics show that ice cream is enjoyed by 90% of the nation’s population. So grab your favorite cold concoction and watch out for that brain freeze!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *