Ice Cream History

Have you ever were sitting in the park on a warm summer day eating an ice cream cone and you thought to yourself, "Hmmm, I wonder how the world came to have ice cream"? Maybe not but ice cream has a pretty interesting history. We all know that it has been around since we were kids. But the actual invention of the ice cream recipe goes so far back into the history of the world that it is hard to say when ice cream was actually "invented".

The earliest documented history of a form of treat that used a combination of milk and ice dates as far back as King Tang in China who experimented with the treat around 618 AD. While that was not ice cream as we know it today, it is said that Marco Polo learned of the treat and brought it back to the western world with him. But that is the stuff of myth because there is no real historical documentation to back that up. It just makes a good story when you are having ice cream around the swimming pool after playing the pool game Marco Polo.

By hook or crook, the recipe for ice cream did catch on in Europe between 1600 and 1800 because there are cook books with variations on the method for making the treat that date to those dates in both England and France. In 1776, the very first ice cream parlor was opened in New York.

The invention of the hand-cranked churn by Nancy Johnson was the first break through that led to the ability to make ice cream in large enough quantities to sell it as a business. In 1847 her patent was bought by a kitchen wholesale supplier in Philadelphia and by 1851 the first mass production of ice cream when a diary farmer in Baltimore learned he could sell a lot more cream from his cows for higher prices by using it to make ice cream.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s when the ice cream cone was invented. The story goes that a fellow by the name of Italo Marchiony liked to sell ice cream on the streets of New York from his cart. But the problem arouse when people would walk off or break the glasses he served the treat in. So he invented the waffle cone to protect his dishes. It was a hit and he patented the waffle cone in 1903.

In 1926 the freezer was invented and that was the final breakthrough that made the mass production and retail sales of ice cream to take off with such intensity that there was an ice cream parlor on every corner and you could buy ice cream in the grocery store the way it is today. Today we can hardly think of the idea that there every was a time when ice cream was not as commonly available as milk or soda pop. It is a permanent part of our lives and our culture. And it is likely to stay that way for many more centuries as well.