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History of Ice Cream – From Then to Now!

Did you know that the history of ice cream starts with a mythical origin? Well, it’s not surprising as the dessert itself is magical, and just a mention of it can conjure up summer memories, stories, and feelings around the globe!

While different countries each have their own spin on this delicious frozen treat, its origin follows the same legends, whether it’s called ice cream, gelato, kulfi, or mochi.

history of ice cream

The History of Ice Cream

Several myths surround the question of how ice cream was invented. While some sources describe ice cream-like foods in Persia around 550 BCE, the most known legends refer to the same in China around 618 – 97 BCE.

  • In China, King Tang of Shang instructed 94 of his men to collect ice and help him create a dish of buffalo milk, camphor, and flour. Another tale tells of a milk and rice mixture which was frozen in the snow.
  • Around 54 – 68 BCE, emperors instructed slaves to collect snow from the mountain tops in Rome. They flavored and served it as an early form of ice cream.
  • Legend has it that Marco Polo saw ice cream being made during his travels to the Far East. It’s believed that he introduced it to Italy upon his return.
  • In another tale, the King of England, Charles I, offered his chef compensation for keeping his ice cream recipe a secret.

Ice Cream Facts from Different Regions




In 1674, Nicholas Lemery published writing which featured the first flavored ice recipe. More flavored ice recipes appeared in Francois Massialot’s writings in 1692. Antonio Latini followed in 1694 with recipes for sorbetti.

Massialot described his recipe results as coarse, with a pebbly texture, while Latini said his should produce a fine consistency of snow and sugar.

North America

A 1744 North American reference to ice cream described a delicacy with strawberries and milk, which was most delicious to eat.

Colonists from Quaker introduced ice cream to the US through recipes. In 1790, a New York store merchant recorded ice cream sales amounting to approximately $200 during the summer to George Washington. Dolley Madison, First Lady and wife of US President James Madison, served ice cream to guests in 1813. Agnes Marshall and Nancy Johnson respectively invented small hand-cranked ice cream freezers in England and America during the 1840s.

South Asia

During the 16th century, relays of horsemen were used by emperors of the Mughal Empire to bring ice to Delhi from the Hindu Kush for sorbet making. Also, in the 16th century, the creation of kulfi originated, which is similar to Persian ice cream.

history of ice creams

Important Ice Cream Dates in History 

While there’s still uncertainty on how ice cream was invented, some important events throughout history color the picture:

5th Century BCE: Ancient Greeks mix fruit and honey with snow.

13th Century: Marco Polo brings “water ice” to Europe.

1700: Governor Bladen of Maryland delights his guests with ice cream.

1768: M. Emy published a book containing recipes for flavored ice and ice cream.

1776: New York City is the first to open an ice cream parlor in America.

1832: Augustus Jackson invents techniques to manufacture ice cream.

1843: Nancy Johnson creates a small-scale hand-cranked ice cream freezer and receives the first US patent for it.

1851: Carlo Gatti opens the first ice cream stall to sell scooped ice cream.

1874: Robert M. Green accidentally invents ice cream soda.

1888: Mrs. Marshall publishes a book that endorses eating ice cream in cones.

1900: Ice cream Sundaes are created.

1903: Italo Marchiony patents edible waffle cups.

1904: The walk-away edible ice cream cone debuts in America.

1934: Chris Nelson creates chocolate-covered ice cream bars.

1938: J.F “grandpa” McCullough and his son serve soft serve for the first time.

1983: Cookies ‘N Cream become an instant hit.

1991: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream makes its debut.

More on Ice Cream’s History

Name: The term ‘ice cream’ originated from the process involved in making it. In 1688, the words were included in the Oxford English Dictionary, and the term showed up in 1744 as its name.

Flavor: While there are endless flavors to ice cream today, the history of ice cream records a honey and nectar combination with ice as the first one.

Industry: In 1851, Jacob Fussell opened the first ice cream factory after he had a surplus of cream. His business boomed, and the wholesale ice cream industry was then born.

Ice Cream Today

Ice cream has surely come a long way. While some find it interesting to know how ice cream was invented, others are simply grateful for the way it has evolved and is still evolving. Today, approximately 15.4 billion liters of ice cream is consumed annually worldwide, we can now make it in our own homes with the help of the world’s best ice cream makers, and we even have a National Day dedicated to it!

different types of ice cream


As the history of ice cream spans worldwide, so does its existence today. It’s one of the most popular cold desserts and is undoubtedly here to stay wherever it originated from! 

Join Me In The Fun of Making Ice Cream at Home!

best ice cream maker

Hi, my name is Simone and I LOVE making and eating ice cream. I have searched long and hard to find the best ice cream maker reviews and tips on the best ice cream makers.

Find out a little more about myself and the IceCream Maker Guru gang here.

Thanks for visiting and may your ice cream always be delicious!

Simone xx

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