8 Great Innovations in Ice Cream History

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cone

In the history of human invention, few things stand out as true game-changers. The wheel. The printing press. The steam engine. Ice cream? Heck, yeah.

Ok, maybe it’s not on par with the printing press, but it’s pretty big to us. And it wouldn’t have been possible without these incredible innovations throughout history:

  1. Harnessing The Cold

    It was big news when humans harnessed fire, and it was equally newsworthy when we figured out how to harness the cold. From the earliest ice pits in the 7th century BC in China to ice houses that were used all over the world until the invention of the modern refrigerator, refrigeration puts the “ice” in “ice cream.”

  2. Word Of Mouth

    All over the world, different cultures made early versions of ice cream. Emperors of the Tang Dynasty are thought to have enjoyed frozen, dairy-based desserts as early as 618 AD. In the Middle Ages, Arabs made an early version of sherbet, called sharbat. In the 17th century, the Italians added sugar and called it sorbet. Soon it spread all throughout Europe and eventually to the US. Ice cream lovers simply couldn’t keep this delicious treat a secret.

  3. The First Hand-Cranked Ice Cream Maker

    Until the mid-1800’s, ice cream was a delicacy enjoyed only by the wealthy, like presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln. In 1843, New Yorker Nancy Johnson patented the very first hand-cranked ice cream maker, allowing anyone with milk, sugar, eggs, and plenty of ice to make it themselves at home.

  4. Ice Cream Reaches The Masses

    By that time, it was clear that ice cream was here to stay. Just eight years later in 1851, a Baltimore milk dealer named Jacob Fussell started mass-producing ice cream. He sold it affordably, opening ice cream parlors all across the US.

  5. Ice Cream Sundaes

    As ice cream became widespread and well-loved, people started to get creative with their new favourite dessert. The ice cream soda became popular at soda fountain shops around 1874. But shops soon received criticism for serving such a rich treat on Sundays. The solution? They stopped adding the soda, and served just ice cream with toppings, calling it an “ice cream Sunday.” Eventually the spelling was changed to “sundae” to avoid confusion.


  6. Home Refrigerators

    Invented in Indiana in 1913, refrigerators similar to the ones we use today became widespread in the 1920’s. By then, ice cream had captivated the hearts of Americans everywhere and was a household staple. Next time you sneak into the kitchen at 1:00 am for a quick scoop of Chocolate Fudge Brownie, you can thank the inventor of the refrigerator.

  7. Ice Cream Cones

    Sure, bowls are cool, but ice cream really reaches its full potential in a cone. Legend has it that it originated at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, when an ice cream vendor ran out of cardboard dishes to serve his ice cream in. Next to his booth was a waffle salesman who was struggling to sell hot waffles in the summer heat. The two joined forces and the rest is sweet, sweet history.

  8. Refrigeration Goes Green

    More recently, refrigeration got a green makeover. Typical refrigerators and freezers use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which aren’t so cool for the environment. In 2011, the EPA approved our petition for the commercial use of hydrocarbon (HC) freezers in the US. HC freezers had already been in use in Europe, and we wanted a piece of the action. So we introduced the Cleaner, Greener Freezer, a cheaper, greener way to keep our favourite flavours chilled.