The History of Ice Cream

Who Invented Ice Cream?

August 16, 2021
Ice Cream Cones

The history of ice cream is a messy one. Many nations claim to have invented it, just as various individuals take credit for it. Even if its origin remains murkey, it makes for a chilling drama!

NOTE: If you are searching for the answer to “Who invented of ice cream?” that’s a trick question. There ARE many inventors, not just one person.

A.D 54–68: For centuries, iced desserts were a luxury. Roman Emperor Nero is said to have sent his slaves into the mountains to fetch snow to mix with nectar, fruit pulp, and honey, although this widely told tale may be a myth.

A.D. 618–907: The origins of ice cream date back to China’s T’ang period, probably as a dish for the country’s rulers. The founder of the dynasty, King T’ang of Shang, kept 94 “ice men” on hand to lug ice to the palace to make a dish made of koumiss (heated, fermented milk), flour, and camphor.

1744: American colonists brought along recipes from Europe. On May 19, 1744, a group of VIP’s dined at the home of Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen. Present was a Scottish colonist who described “a Dessert…Among the Rarities of which is was Compos’d, was some fine Ice Cream which, with the Strawberries and Milk, eat most deliciously.” This is the first written account of ice cream consumption in the new colonies.

1782: Ever hear how Martha Washington left a bowl of sweet cream on the back steps of Mount Vernon one night, and the next morning discovered ice cream? Nice story, but not true. George Washington did have, described in his ledger, “a cream machine for ice.”

1843: Until September 9, 1843, ice cream was made by the “pot freezer method,” but on this day, Nancy M. Johnson of Philadelphia got her “artificial freezer” patented, containing a tub, cylinder, lid, dasher, and crank. This design is still widely used today.

1851: Baltimore dairyman Jacob Fussell was athe first person to produce ice cream commercially, opened the first ice cream factory. He had a surplus of cream—so he built an ice cream factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania, and shipped it to Baltimore by train. Business boomed, and Fussell became the father of the wholesale ice cream industry.

1880: Buffalo, NY; Evanston, IL; Two Rivers, WI; and Ithaca, NY all claim to have invented the ice cream sundae. Wherever it happened, it first started appearing in soda fountains during the 1880’s. It was invented because ice cream sodas weren’t allowed to be sold on Sundays; the ice cream sundae was a way to circumvent that restriction. On September 22, 1903, there is a recorded application for a patent for the ice cream cone by Italo Marchiony.

1939: Grocery stores didn’t start selling ice cream until the 1930’s, and by WWII, ice cream had become so popular that it turned into somewhat of an American symbol (Mussolini banned it in Italy for that same reason). Ice cream was great for troop morale, and in 1943, the U.S. Armed Forces were the world’s largest ice cream manufacturers!

Whatever the history, ice cream is here to stay! 

Want to try making it yourself? See our tips on how to make old-fashioned ice cream!


The 2004 Old Farmer's Almanac: the article posted on 10-2015 has been updated.


Reader Comments

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Mussolini & ice cream

Can you cite your source relating to Mussolini’s supposed ban on ice cream? I have long been a student of that era of Italian history and have never heard or read anything about that. I do know, however, that gelato (ice cream) was definitely made, advertised and sold in Italy during the 1920s and 1930s.

Mussolini banned ice cream

The Editors's picture

Hi, Don. Two books that were of great help to us were Ice Cream by Robert T. Marshall and Everybody Loves Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop on America’s Favorite Treat by Shannon Arnold. Neither provides details about ice cream being made in Italy, but that Mussolini declared the treat “too American” and banned it.

ice cream

First ice cream invented by Persian, Persia or current Iran was a hot country and it was a common eating practice between royals to eat cold things such as ice cream. Even today if you go to cities such as yazd in central Iran you can find some place which they used to store ice. Its a very bad habit when it comes to ancient times just referring anything to Rome or Greece.

When was this submitted? I

When was this submitted? I need this information for a research paper.

When was ice cream discovered article

The Editors's picture

The original source is The 2004 Old Farmer’s Almanac, and it later ran in abbreviated form in The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids Volume 2. Hope this helps!

No mention of Augustus

No mention of Augustus Jackson and his influence on modern day ice cream , huh? Why am I not surprise?@ This highlights the importance of people of color needing to know their own history because we definitely would be fools to think others are going to honor it.

Hi, Marcelsmind: Thanks for

The Editors's picture

Hi, Marcelsmind: Thanks for bringing up Mr. Jackson, who is known as the "Father of Ice Cream" because of his innovative ice cream-making ideas. Just for the record, we have neither the time nor the inclination to check on the ethnicity of the thousands of people mentioned in our pages. We just do the best we can. Thanks again!

I like ice cream! I like

I like ice cream! I like cookies n cream. What's your fav icecream

I think that this page really

I think that this page really helped me with my genius hour at school. It did not answer my question on who really invented Ice-Cream. I did find the time line helpful on the history of Ice-Cream though. When I found this page I was really hopeful that it would tell me as well as the history it would tell me who invented it. So I think one piece of advice from me would be make sure you put in the information you say you are going to when people click on your link.

Thanks. We revised the text

The Editors's picture

Thanks. We revised the text to communicate that its origins are quite murkey. Perhaps this is a trick question on a school exam! There is no one inventor as is the case with many inventions; there are building blocks in history that lead us from one idea to another. Often inventions are clustered around the same time in different countries because the conditions are ready and the building blocks are there!

this is actually very good

this is actually very good info but it didn't answer my question on ice cream who invented the desert

I want to know for my

I want to know for my homework

i honestly think that this

i honestly think that this article is a a good article to read because it has helped me out a lot through the rough times with all m y homework! :) I have this article hanged up in my room and in a picture frame... Props to the publisher!

#I love ice cream!

in many ancient countries

in many ancient countries like china , Iran , Roma people used to eat a mixture of snow or icy snow & sweet juices or chopped fruits .so it is difficult to say who invented icecream .

First of all, how did people

First of all, how did people made ice cream back then? The refrigerator didn't exist. How? did they get ice from glaciers?

Hi, Nataly: Check out the

The Editors's picture

Hi, Nataly: Check out the History above. Wherever there was snow or ice, there was a way to make ice cream or something like it. Pretty cool.

I remember Momma going out in

I remember Momma going out in the snow and filling a container full of fresh fallen snow and tossed eggs, sugar and vanilla and beat it all up and we 6 Hardy kids back in the Great Depression were so thrilled at the magic created by our darling precious Mother during those terrible years. God bless Momma and thank God for snow and ice cream!

This doesn't make sense.

This doesn't make sense. There are too many people who made this!

the sabbath is on

the sabbath is on thats alittle strange

What's the actual date?

What's the actual date?

really? Wikipedia? how dumb

really? Wikipedia? how dumb are people getting these days. I know people in middle school that don't trust Wikipedia! I know people that edit it to! so your telling us to trust Wikipedia a site that people rarely trust and only use for very broad and general information?!? what is our world coming to...

How about the Italians, the

How about the Italians, the sicilians came up first with GELATO

I do know that the ice cream

I do know that the ice cream cone became popular after the St. Louis World's Fair.

Wikipedia seriously? That's

Wikipedia seriously? That's like saying snopes is a reliable source of info. I've known since I was 5 years old, in 1960, that ice cream was first made by the Chinese.

so sorry but it seems

so sorry but it seems Persians were first people who invented and used Ice Cream, you may see below link as well:

You're seriously trusting

You're seriously trusting Wikipedia?

duh its the best = you're

duh its the best = you're seriously not trusting wikipedia

The origin of ice cream has

The Editors's picture

The origin of ice cream has many theories, but it is widely believed that the emperors of the Tang Dynasty were the first to eat “a frozen milk-like confection.”

Ice cream