THE ORIGIN OF ICE CREAM: The man who invented ice cream was a Negro by the name of Jackson, and in the early part of the present century kept a small confectionery store. Cold custards, which were cooled after being made by setting them on a cake of ice, were very fashionable, and Jackson conceived the idea of freezing them, which he did by placing the ingredients in a tin bucket and completely covered with ice. Each bucket contained a quart, and was sold for $1. It immediately became popular, and the inventor soon enlarged his store, and when he died left a considerable fortune A good many tried to follow his example, and ice cream was hawked about the streets, being wheeled along very much as the hokey-pokey carts are now, but none of them succeeded in obtaining the flavor that Jackson had in his product.
– New York Times, March 11, 1894 (p. 18)
Despite American claims to have invented it (above) in the early 1800s, the earliest record of ice cream is in China in the Tang period (A.D. 618-907). Buffalo, cows’ and goats’ milk was heated and allowed to ferment. This ‘yoghurt’ was then mixed with flour for thickening, camphor for flavour and ‘refrigerated’ before being served. King Tang of Shang had a staff of 2,271 people which included 94 ice-men.
The early methods of freezing food need some explanation. Freezing of foods was achieved by mixing salt with ice. Mixing salt with ice reduces the freezing point and it is quite easy to achieve temperatures lower than -14C. Just who discovered the process is unknown, but it was probably invented by the Chinese. It was written about in India in the 4th century, and the first technical description of ice making using various salts was by an Arab medical historian Ibn Abu Usaybi (A.D. 1230-1270).
The process arrived in Europe in 1503 – in Italy – where it was considered a chemists party trick, using various acids, water and salts. However, it was not used for food until water ices (sorbets) appeared in the 1660s in Naples, Florence, Paris and Spain. Ices made with sweetened milk first appeared in Naples in 1664.
In this country Ice Cream was served at a banquet for the Feast of St. George at Windsor Castle in 1671. It was such a rare and exotic dish that only the guests on King Charles II’s table had ‘one plate of white strawberries and one plate of iced cream.’ All the other guests had to watch and marvel at what the Royal table were eating.
London’s Italian community started over 1000 years ago and was well established by the nineteenth century: The book Arrivi states that: ‘In the years from 1841 to 1881 the residents of the London Italian quarter of Holborn were mainly frame makers, statue makers, ice cream makers, and organists.’
Ice cream manufacture was simplified with the introduction of the ice cream machine in 1843, and vendors with handcarts or horse drawn carts were soon selling ice cream in the cobbled streets of England. Ice was shipped from Norway to London and other major ports and taken in canal barges down the canals. It was then stored in ice houses, from where it was sold to ice cream makers. This burgeoning ice cream industry, run mainly by Italians, started an influx of workers from southern Italy and the Ticino area of Switzerland to England. The huge ice house pits built near Kings Cross by Carlo Gatti in the 1850s still exist, and have recently been opened to the public at The London Canal Museum.
The commercial tricycle was developed in England in the 1870s. It was commonly used by grocers, bakers, druggists and other tradesmen. As bicycles evolved and, with mass-production, became cheaper to manufacture, most small business needing to make local deliveries used a carrier bicycle or tricycle. As well as delivering goods to and from local businesses, the carrier tricycle also replaced the vendor’s cart which had previously been used to sell products direct to the public.
Walls introduced an ice cream tricycle in 1923. It was so successful that they bought a fleet of them the following year. By 1939, in London, there were 4,000 ice cream tricycles.
Warrick & Co of Reading was the largest supplier of commercial carrier tricycles. Elswick and Pashley soon started providing them too. Though those three companies dominated the market, many smaller companies made a standard carrier tricycle, but would adapt its delivery box according to a customers needs.
Alldays & Onions, established around 1650 next to Dudley Castle, is Great Britain’s oldest existing company. It no longer makes vehicles, but is still trading now, 365 years on. The company started making this style of carrier tricycle as early as 1900, when they were one of the country’s top cycle manufacturers with government contracts for their military bicycles. Alldays adapted their own carrier tricycle’s standard wooden body to make a wooden ice cream box body with insulated interior. Walls’ ice cream fleet included both Warrick and Alldays tricycles.
Carrier tricycles are still used all over the world, especially in India as goods carriers, with loads of up to 1,000 lb; and throughout South East Asia where they’re used for roadside food preparation and sales. In recent years years, there has been a resurgence of interest in ice cream tricycles in Great Britain, with new ones now being manufactured to meet demand. The early original ones are the most interesting models. The Warrick and the later Pashley with plastic body are the most common, but this 1920s Alldays Ice Cream Tricycle with ornate wooden body is one of the most sought-after versions.
1930s Triang Walls Ice Cream Cart
Ice Cream info with thanks to – http://www.ice-cream.org/the-history-of-ice-cream.htm
Great Britain’s Italian community info thanks to – Arrivi by the Italia Comitato Nazionale Italia nel Mondo.
Ice Cream Cart photo thanks to the Di Paolo family, Bexhill on Sea