The history of ice cream is a mixture of both truth and myth. No one would think that it could be traced back to ancient civilizations, and that these civilizations possessed techniques of storing and keeping ice. The earliest known ice houses can be traced to 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia. History also shows that the pharaohs of Egypt used to have ice shipped to them, and that the Roman Emperor Nero in the 4th century used to have servants run to the mountains to collect ice for his fruit toppings.
This is not ice cream as we know it, but it shows that the idea of “iced desert” has been around for centuries. The earliest kind of ice cream as we know it can be found from the Chinese with King Tang (AD 618) who had invented a method of mixing ice and milk into flavorful concoctions. Folklore also claims that Marco Polo saw Ice Cream being made in China and brought the recipe back to Italy. This is how it is claimed that Ice Cream came to the West, but Marco Polo never mentions this anywhere in his writings.
Ice Cream, as a dairy delight, first came into popularity in the 1600’s. The story goes that Charles I of England’s cook had acquired a Chinese recipe for ice cream and presented it as an after dinner desert at a state banquet. Charles I was so impressed that he wanted this delicacy to be served only in his palace, and offered the cook 500 pounds a year to keep the recipe secret. However, this didn’t happen. Charles I was soon beheaded after coming under some serious unpopularity, and the “secret” recipe of ice cream was out.
Ice cream then first began to feature in public life in the 18th century when cream, milk and egg yolks began to be mixed with ices. A 1768 cookbook (L’Art de Bien Faire les Glaces d’Office by M. Emy) was published and featured many different recipes for flavored ice and ice cream. Ice cream then traveled to the USA through colonists, and it began to be sold by confectioners in cities. The first ice cream Parlor in America opened up in 1776 in New York.
When a man named Italo Marchiony used to sell ice cream on Wall Street from his cart, he discovered that many customers were breaking or wondering off with his serving glasses (and this cost him money.) To drop his overhead costs, he invented edible waffle cups with sloping sides and a flat bottom. Hence, the ice cream cone started coming into being. He patented this idea in 1903.
Ice cream first started becoming more widely available since Nancy Johnson invented the hand cranked churn. This freezer ensured that there was no need for continuous chilling between the production and consumer. She sold the patent to a Philadelphia kitchen wholesaler, who had made enough of these freezers by 1847 to satisfy the increasing demand. The first ice cream factory was opened in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1851 by a dairy farmer who was looking for new ways to satisfy the incredible demand for his cream. He found that he could produce ice cream for twice the price of his cream on it’s own, and soon opened up branches all over the country.
When the continuous process freezer was perfected in 1926, refrigeration became common, and this resulted in an explosion of parlors and stores selling ice cream all over the world and allowed for mass production. This soon developed into the industry we know today
Ice Cream as a Part of Street Culture
Cities where large communities of Italians settled, the hokey-pokey man became a fixture of popular street culture. He was an ice cream vendor and moving sandwich stand par excellence, with a small pushcart and a variety of Neapolitan flavors—Naples being the presumed origin of all the ice creamers in that line of work. The hokey-pokey man sold ice creams in paper cups and in paper cones so that customers could walk and eat at the same time. They also sold ice cream called penny licks. These were little glasses that contained a penny’s worth of ice cream, a marketing gimmick aimed primarily at children. When the ice cream was eaten, the glass was given back to the vendor, who then washed it and refilled it for the next customer. The hokey-pokey man gave rise to a flavor of ice cream in cities like New York and London. In Philadelphia, his name attached itself to a hokey sandwich made with an antipasto salad of cold meats and lettuce now known as the hoagie