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Who invented ice cream?

Updated: Mar 7, 2019

Ice cream is beloved delicious treat, whether it's on a hot summer day or on some pie at thanksgiving. But who invented this amazing frozen treat?



Ice cream is a delicious frozen treat that has become part of our American culture. A refreshing treat to follow a meal, a weekly sundae while out with the family or any other occasion that can be celebrated, is done with some variation of ice cream. It's creamy and delicious and there are no bounds at to the flavors that can be created. Where did it come from? Who invented ice cream?


Early days of ice cream


There are many early accounts across the globe of an early iteration of ice cream, although no one person is credited with its invention. In the 5th century BC, the ancient Greeks sold a snow and fruit mixture in the markets of Athens. It has been recorded that Alexander the Great ate snow and ice flavored with fruit nectar and honey in the 3rd century BC. During the reign of Roman emperor Nero Claudius Caesar (AD 54-86), runners were often sent into the mountains to retrieve snow which was then mixed with fruit and juices for their supreme leader.


Nearly one thousand years later, Marco Polo, upon his return to Italy from the Far East, brought with him a recipe that is similar to our modern-day sherbet. And many historians believe that this recipe was the genesis of what would evolve into ice cream as we know it. The English seem to have discovered this "cream ice" as it appeared regularly upon the table of Charles I in the 17th century.


The American treat

The first official advertisement of ice cream in North America appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777. Philip Lenzi, a local confectioner, published the ad stating that his ice cream was available "almost every day." From the records of a New York merchant, we know that President George Washington was so enamored by this delicious treat that he spent approximately $200 on ice cream during the summer of 1790. President Thomas Jefferson was also known to be a fan of an 18-step recipe resembling a modern-day equivalent to Baked Alaska.


Up until about 1800, ice cream remained a rare delicacy enjoyed by the elite in America. In 1851, Jacob Fussell, a Baltimore milk dealer began manufacturing this frozen treat due to the advancement in technology including steam power, mechanical refrigeration and packing machines. 1874 brought the invention of ice cream soda in the old-fashioned soda fountain shop, served by the "soda jerk." In direct response to religious criticism for eating what was known as "sinfully" rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, ice cream merchants omitted the carbonated water and invented the ice cream "Sunday" in the late 1890's. The name was changed to "sundae" to remove any connection or affiliation with the the Christian Sabbath.


During World War II, ice cream became a symbol of edible morale. Each branch of the military tried to outdo the others in the amount of ice cream served to its troops. In 1945, the first "floating ice cream parlor" was built for sailors in the western Pacific. At the conclusion of the war and dairy product rationing was lifted, America celebrated its victory with ice cream. So much so, that Americans consumed over 20 quarts of ice cream per person in 1946.

In the 1940s through the ‘70s, ice cream production was relatively constant in the United States. As prepackaged ice cream companies grew by offering their product through supermarkets, the traditional ice cream parlors and soda fountains began to disappear.

Recently, specialty ice cream stores and unique restaurants that feature ice cream dishes have popped up all over the country and have surged in popularity. These stores tend to be popular with those who remember the ice cream shops and soda fountains of days past, and they have ushered in new generations of ice cream fans. One of the best old-fashioned candy and ice cream shops is located in Smithville and Hamilton Missouri. Check out Nellie's Sweet Shop for your ice cream needs.


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