Ice Cream

The true history of ice cream has been lost to time, but the apocryphal story commonly told is the following:


    3000 BCE

    The ancestor to ice cream is shaved ice or snow, flavored naturally with fruit, honey, or maple syrup. This was practiced as early as 3000 BCE by the ancient Chinese - followed by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Persians.

  • 200

    By 200 CE Chinese nobility were using the snow to freeze a rice-milk paste into a creamy sweet treat.

  • 618-907

    In the Tang dynasty nomadic tribes to China's north, popularized sushan (酥山), a frozen drink made of boiled buffalo milk, and sugar or honey, poured into a conical mold, and stored in the "ice warehouse," lingyin (凌阴), to freeze.

  • 13th C.

    It is then believed that in the late 13th C. Italian merchant, like Marco Polo, brought Chinese “ice cream” recipes with them back to Italy.

  • 1368-1644

    Using an "ice warehouse," lingyin (凌阴), to store "summer ice,"xiabing (
    夏冰), from Shiwu bencao, a collection of anonymous illustrations about food-ways in Ming period China.


    16th C.

    In 16th century Florence, duchess Catherine de’ Medici held a contest which was won by Ruggeri, with a recipe of sorbet. His sorbet was so loved that Catherine took Ruggeri with her to France, when she married Henry II in 1533. Soon after eggs were introduced to this lineage of frozen dessert recipes by another Florentine, Bernardo Buontalenti.



    In 1686 Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a Sicilian cook living in Paris, is credited with inventing modern day gelato.

  • 1692

    In his 1692 book, Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs et les fruits, the chef (and inventor of the crème brûlée) François Massialot provided the first recipe for what we call today French style ice cream, made of cream, sugar, and eggs.

    The title page (in old French) for the 1692 book, Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs et les fruits, by François Massialot
    Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Arsenal

  • 1718

    The first recipe for ice cream in English was published in Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts, a book dedicated to confectionery, in London in 1718.

    Scans of the 1718 book Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts, featuring the first ice cream recipe published in English

  • 1744

    The first reference to ice cream in the New World was in a 1744 letter by William Black of Virginia about a dinner party he attended at Gov. Bladen of MD, “a Dessert no less curious: Among the Rarities of which it was Compos’d, was some fine Ice Cream which, with the Strawberries and Milk, eat most Deliciously.”

  • 1773

    On November 25, 1773, in the Rivington’s New York Gazatteer, Philip Lenzi just arriving from London, published the first advertisement for ice cream in the New World. He is often attributed with opening the first ice cream parlor in the colonies as well.

    A copy of an advertisement for Phillip Lenzi's arrival in NY from London, detailing his personal life and confectionery. November 25, 1773, in the Rivington’s New York Gazatteer



    Sometime in the 1830s August Jackson, a former top chef at the White House, moved to his hometown of Philadelphia. He opened his own business as a confectioner. Jackson then discovered a new way to make ice cream without eggs, today called Philadelphia Style. Jackson wholesaled his ice cream to Black business owners, and shared his way of making ice cream with them. Jackson become one of the wealthiest people in Philadelphia with his ice cream. No known image of Jackson or his descendants exist.



    In 1843 Philadelphia, Nancy M. Johnson received Patent No. 3254 from the U.S. Patent Office for an “artificial freezer” - it was an ice cream maker. Her invention improved ice cream production forever.
    Nancy M Johnson's patent illustration for her ice cream maker. A wooden pale with parallel walls, contains an inner metal chamber. Between the two containers is ice and salt. Inside the inner container is a long blade that scrapes the walls of frozen ice cream.



    In 1861, a Quaker schoolteacher named Louis Dubois Bassett set out to make high-quality ice creams on his rural New Jersey farm. By 1885, he was selling it at 5th & Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia and in 1893, Bassett’s Ice Cream opened up shop in the new Reading Terminal Market where they have remained ever since.



    In 1866, William Breyer started hand-cranking ice cream in his Kensington kitchen and selling it to neighbors. Within months, he was delivering his ice cream to a growing number of customers in a horse-drawn wagon. By 1882, when Breyer died, he had opened six retail locations. Breyer’s continued producing all-natural ice cream in Philadelphia until 1995 and remains a household brand nationwide.

    Breyer's ice cream container circa 1950s from The Franklin Fountain Collection



    William Clewell of Reading, PA, received U.S. Patent No. 209,751 on November 12, 1878 for his "ice-cream measure and mold" - the first ice scream scoop. It was manufactured by Philadelphia confectionery equipment makers V. Clad Co.

    William Clewell Ice Scream Mold from The Franklin Fountain Collection



    Alfred L. Cralle was awarded patent 576,395 on 2 February 1897 for an "Ice Cream Mold and Disher," with a built-in scraper to allow for one-handed operation.

    William Clewell Ice Scream Mold from The Franklin Fountain Collection


Soda's history is intertwined with that of medicine and the temperance movement. As attitudes towards health and drugs shifted, so did our preparation of soda.


    753 BCE

    Natural mineral waters that bubble up from the Earth, have been believed to be healthful and cure disease, by many civilizations - from the ancient Romans, to 43 CE Bath, England, to the many onsen of Japan.

    an underground grotto, reinforced with an archway of bricks, pours out water over mineral rich rocks
    Roman Baths, Bath, England

  • Mid 16th C

    The commercial bottling of natural mineral waters began in Europe in the mid 16th C., with Spa Belgium, Vichy France, Ferrarelle Italy and Apollinaris Germany.

  • 18th C.

    In the 18th C., natural mineral and effervescent springs in Europe became popular health retreats and curative destinations.

    postcard of victorian people visiting a mineral spring in vichy france

    Early 20th century postcard of visitors to the Vichy mineral water spring in France. Vichy had thermal baths in Roman times, and by the 16th century the springs had acquired a reputation for healing powers. Vichy's fame grew through the 17th, 18th and 19th century, and by 1900 some 40,000 people were visiting to 'take the waters', increasing to nearly 100,000 just before World War I in 1914. This spring is the Source Chomel. The postcard dates from around 1910.

  • 1767

    In 1767, Englishman Joseph Priestley first discovered a method of infusing water with carbon dioxide to make carbonated water.

    From Priestley's pamphlet on making carbonated water: "Directions for Impregnating Water with Fixed Air"

  • 1771

    In 1771 Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented an apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid. Bergman's apparatus allowed imitation mineral water to be produced in large amounts. When a carbonate compound like chalk, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, or magnesium carbonate, is mixed with an acid like tartaric, citric or malic acid, and moisture is introduced, a chemical reaction occurs that releases carbon gas. Fizzy drinks are called “soda” for this reason.



    In 1783 Johann Jacob Schweppe founded the Schweppes Company in Geneva to sell carbonated water.

  • Early 19th C.

    In the early 19th century, soda gained popularity in pharmacies. They would mix their medicinal syrups, with the "therapeutic” waters, and then mask the flavor with sugar and fruit syrups.

    In addition to CO2, pharmacists used recipes like the ones in Tuft’s Book of Directions, or MacMahon’s Guide to recreate the salt and mineral profiles reflective of famous locations.

    A page from "MacMahon's Guide," from The Franklin Fountain Collection, with instructions for replicating the waters of Vichy France and Bad Neuenahr, Germany

  • 1874

    In 1874 the semi-centennial celebration of the Franklin Institute was held at City Hall. Robert M Green had flyers printed announcing “SOMETHING NEW! GREEN’S ICE CREAM SODA” which he distributed at the fair. Word quickly spread and Green ended up doing a brisk business, and establishing himself in the eyes of history as the inventor of the ice cream soda.



    By the centennial in 1876, the soda water industry was booming. The great celebration fair in Philadelphia was proclaimed a dry event by the temperance societies. Two soda fountain manufacturing giants, Charles Lippincott, and James W. Tufts decided to split the exhibition fee and jointly installed numerous ornate soda fountains throughout. Their venture was a great success.

    Tufts promotional postcard, from The Franklin Fountain Collection, showing polar bears enjoying cold soda, and a demon taking their Tuft's soda apparatus to Hell.



    In 1885 Coca-Cola is invented by invented by John Stith Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia, as Pemberton's French Wine Coca a nerve tonic. Originally marketed as a temperance drink and intended as a patent medicine, it contained cocaethylene (cocaine mixed with alcohol).

    An example of coca medicine from Lloyd Bros. Cinncinati, OH; 1845-1924 - from The Franklin Fountain Collection

    By  1899 social concerns about cocaine were growing, and so the “coca” was taken out of Coca-Cola.



    At the turn of the century, the soda fountain had an ambiguous identity, being a direct descendant of old pharmacies --known for peddling dangerous patent medicines — all the while becoming the socially acceptable alternative to the saloons during the temperance movement. During this period soda shops would sell “Don’t Care” soda syrups - which was intended as a wink and nod to the soda jerk to put a little something extra in your beverage - lithium, cocaine, morphine, opium etc.

    A soda jerk winks while making a drink. Signs behind him say "pure drugs" and "try wink soda" - a poem below speaks about him drugging the sodas and being a danger
    Postcard from The Franklin Fountain Collection

    Shortly after the passage of the Pure Food & Drugs Act of 1906, the practice of serving a Don’t Care syrups fell out of fashion in the United States.

    But still some additives remained in sodas for decades; until the 1930s, 7-up sold a “Lithiated” soda. These days, Lithium is prescribed by psychiatrists as a mood stabilizer.



    By January 16, 1920 the 18th Amendment of National Prohibition was implemented, further pushing the Soda Fountain as a 3rd place for communities to meet and converse.

In 2004 Eric and Ryan Berley opened The Franklin Fountain at 116 Market street, and by 2006 they began to make their own ice cream, joining the legacy of Philadelphia ice cream makers. Our sodas are dispensed from an early 1900's bronze & onyx marble soda fountain.

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