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Ice Cream History

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The origins of ice cream can be traced far back to as early as the third century B.C. During this time the Chinese are reported to have served various flavored ices. The ice was either gathered from the mountains or snow that was leftover from winter and stored in underground vaults. As with today, these early ice cream eaters considered the dish a delicious summer treat.


The early versions of ice cream resembles something of what we would call a snow cone today. During the Persian Empire a kind of grape-juice concentrate was poured over snow brought down from the mountains during the summer months. Over the years ice cream began to transform into other forms, including early forms of sorbet. For example, Neo Claudius Caesar is said to have sent men into the mountains to gather snow, which he then added juices and fruits to for flavor. Also, Alexander the Great was known to enjoy honey flavored ice. A concoction very similar to sherbet was said to have been brought back to Italy by Marco Polo. Charles I frequently served something called “creamed ice” during the 17th century.

Europeans made great advances in the evolution and widespread consumption of ice cream. In 1674 Nicholas Lemery published the first French recipe for flavored ices. It was at Café Procope that a Sicilian named Procopio first served a dish blending cream, milk, butter and eggs to the general public. Ice cream began to become accessible to ordinary people in the Mediterranean during the mid-eighteenth century.

Ice Cream Technology

As ice cream progressed so did the technology for making it. The Chinese are credited with the first ice cream and sorbet making device. The world of ice cream changed when insulated ice houses were invented around the year 1800. This meant that ice was more easily available and quickly thereafter the ice cream industry in America was born.

Ice cream stabilizers were first used after WWII to improve the creaminess and texture of industrialized ice cream. They are used to add a creamy texture to the ice cream by reducing the size of ice crystals. Additionally, the stabilizers give the ice cream a higher melting temperature allowing it to last longer when served.

Growing Popularity

Even though ice cream was growing in popularity around the world, it was really America that turned ice cream into a food for the masses. In 1851 Jacob Fussell, a Baltimore milk dealer, opened the first large scale ice cream factory in the United States. As a result he is known as the “Father of the Ice Cream Industry.”



It was at the 1904 World’s Fair that ice cream cones became a popular way to enjoy the treat. While ice cream cones were not invented at the fair, this is where they began to gain mass exposure and appeal. Ice cream took another major leap toward mass consumption in the 1930s when it began to be sold at grocery stores. This meant that you no longer had to make ice cream yourself in order to enjoy it in your own home. Ice cream enjoyed even greater popularity during WWII when it became a symbol of American life for the troops fighting overseas. In fact, in 1943, the United States Armed Forces were the biggest American producer of ice cream.


3000 B.C. – Chinese serve flavored ices

618-907 AD – Tang Dynasty emperors believed to have eaten a frozen milk concoction.

1200s – Ice Cream arrives in Italy

1600s – Ice cream arrives in Britain

1672 – Term “ice cream” first appears. Charles II was known for serving Ice Cream in his court.

1776 – First American ice cream parlor opens in New York City

1851 – First large scale ice cream factory in the United States open in Baltimore, Maryland.

1870s – Ice cream soda invented. Added to the popularity of ice cream.

1888 – The use of an ice cream cone is first mentioned in Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Book of Cookery.

1846 – Nancy Johnson patented a hand-cranked freezer for making ice cream, a method that is still used today.

1851 – First large-scale commercial industrial plant established in Baltimore by Jacob Fussell

1950s – Ice cream becomes popular throughout the world.