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Ice Cream History

The history of ice cream began centuries ago....

There are rumours that Nero (Roman Emperor) and the ancient Chinese (via Marco Polo) enjoyed an “ice-cream-like dessert”…these desserts, while frozen, are not ice cream as we know it, but more like sorbet or probably a snow-cone! Nero would have servants run to the mountains for fresh snow and then race back (before it melted) to his palace where he would enjoy the frozen treats topped with fresh fruits. Again, it’s not the dairy treat we enjoy today, and further – it was something only royalty enjoyed.

Ice cream as a dairy delight was probably “discovered” in the 1600’s. The concept of flavoured ices evolved, but no one is sure how.

However it is a well known fact that Charles I of England, or rather, his chef (either French or Italian) made ice cream a staple of the royal table. Depending on which version you read, either the chef had a secret recipe for ice cream and the king paid him a handsome reward to keep it a secret, or the chef was threatened with death if he divulged the recipe. Either way, once Charles I was beheaded in 1649, the chef revealed the secret recipe. Soon nobility in Europe knew of, and enjoyed, delicious ice creams.

The still-for-the-rich “iced creams” were widely known in the 18th century on both sides of the Atlantic. Several recipes appear in a French cookbook, “L’Art de Faire des Glacés”, and in the soon-to-be United States, ice cream was also known.

Thomas Jefferson had a recipe for Vanilla ice cream, George Washington paid almost $200 (a massive amount of money at the time) for a specific recipe. Still, ice cream was restricted in quantity and popularity, due to the enormous effort needed to make it.

The hand crank might have been fine for backyard picnics, but no one considered ice cream making as an industry – until Jacob Fussell in 1851. The milk dealer was looking for a way to keep a steady demand for his cream. He discovered that he could do so by turning it into ice cream – and he could get twice the price! His Baltimore factory utilized icehouses and a larger version of Johnson’s machine, and by the start of the Civil War he had additional ice cream plants in New York, Washington, and Boston. Ice cream still didn’t become a widespread phenomenon until the 20th century, when advances in refrigeration and power allowed severe increase in production.

For over a century, we have been enjoying ice cream on a cone. Whether it's a waffle cone, a sugar cone or a wafer cone, what better way to enjoy a double scoop of your favourite flavour?

The first ice cream cone was produced in 1896 by Italo Marchiony. Marchiony, who emigrated from Italy in the late 1800s, invented his ice cream cone in New York City. He was granted a patent in December 1903.

The first ice cream cone story…

Italo Marciony, emigrated to the United States in the late 1800s, and although he lived in Hoboken, NJ for a time his fame resides solely in New York City. He began his business selling his homemade lemon ice from a single pushcart on Wall Street, but his business quickly grew into many carts.

Although he was successful he still had a small problem that was causing him to lose money. At the time, most ice cream from vendors was sold in serving glasses called "penny licks" (because you'd lick the ice cream from the glass, and it cost a penny to do so).

There was a major problem with sanitation (or the lack thereof), but Marciony's problem was that many people would accidentally break the glasses, or not so accidentally walk off with them.

His first solution was to make cone-like containers out of paper which worked fine until he was hit with a stroke of genius. He came up with the idea of making an edible container for his cool treat. So in 1896 he began baking edible waffle cups with sloping sides and a flat bottom - shaped like his serving glass - and it was an instant hit.

On September 22, 1903, he filed a patent application out of the city and state of New York, and U.S. Patent No. 746971 was issued to him on December 15, 1903.

Although Marchiony is credited with the invention of the cone, a similar creation was independently introduced at the Saint Louis, Missouri in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, where the story goes that a Syrian pastry maker, Ernst Hamwi who was selling zalabia, a crisp pastry cooked in a hot folding waffle-patterned press, and dribbled with syrup, came to the aid of a neighbouring ice cream vendor, perhaps Arnold Fornachou or Charles Menches, who was running out of dishes, by rolling a still-warm zalabia into a cone that could hold ice cream. However, numerous men who sold pastries at the World's Fair claimed to have been the inventor of the ice cream cone, citing a variety of inspirations. After the fair the ice cream cone became popular in St. Louis and within a few years, the ice cream cone was being sold nationwide. Hamwi's story is largely based on a letter he wrote in 1928 to the Ice Cream Trade Journal, long after he had established the Cornucopia Waffle Company, which had grown into the Missouri Cone Company. Nationally, by that time, the ice-cream cone industry was producing some 250 million cones a year.

Ice cream cone - A Business is born…

St. Louis, a foundry town, quickly capitalized on the cone's success. Enterprising people invented special baking equipment for making the World's Fair cornucopia cones.

Stephen Sullivan of Sullivan, Missouri, was one of the first known independent operators in the ice cream cone business. In 1906, Sullivan served ice cream cones (or cornucopias, as they were still called) at the Modern Woodmen of America Frisco Log Rolling in Sullivan, Missouri.

At the same time, Hamwi was busy with the Cornucopia Waffle Company. In 1910, he founded the Missouri Cone Company, later known as the Western Cone Company.

As the modern ice cream cone developed, two distinct types of cones emerged. The rolled cone was a waffle, baked in a round shape and rolled (first by hand, later mechanically) as soon as it came off the griddle. In a few seconds, it hardened in the form of a crisp cone. The second type of cone was molded either by pouring batter into a shell, inserting a core on which the cone was baked, and then removing the core; or pouring the batter into a mold, baking it and then splitting the mold so the cone could be removed with little difficulty.

In the 1920s, the cone business expanded. Cone production in 1924 reached a record 245 million. Slight changes in automatic machinery have led to the ice cream cone we know today. Now, millions of rolled cones are turned out on machines that are capable of producing about 150,000 cones every 24 hours.

The idea of selling a frozen ice-cream cone had long been a dream of ice-cream makers, but it wasn't until 1959 that Spica, an Italian ice-cream manufacturer based in Naples conquered the problem of the ice-cream making the cone go soggy. Spica invented a process, whereby the inside of the waffle cone was insulated from the ice-cream by a layer of oil, sugar and chocolate. Spica registered the name Cornetto (ice-cream) in 1960. Initial sales were poor, but in 1976 Unilever bought out Spica and began a mass-marketing campaign thought Europe. It is now one of the most popular ice-creams in the world.

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