It’s National Ice Cream Day!


The history of ice cream in the United States dates back to 1744. An official from Virginia named William Black dined at the house of Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen in Annapolis. Black’s journal entry about the meal noted that the governor served, “among the Rarities,…some fine Ice Cream…” Sources say it was made from strawberries and milk.

Ice cream quickly became popular throughout the colonies, but it was expensive to buy and difficult to make. Before modern refrigeration, ice had to be cut from lakes and shipped to cities. Storing it involved a separate building, called an icehouse, where the ice was packed with hay to keep it from melting. Ice was such a challenge to obtain that it is said that Virginia Governor Francis Fauquier once used the ice from a hailstorm to make ice cream in a metal pot freezer.

Given these difficulties, ice cream was a treat reserved for the elite. Thomas Jefferson had his own recipe for vanilla, his favorite flavor, and the year after, Alexander and Eliza Hamilton served the dessert to Washington, the General spent $200 on ice cream – that’s about $3000 today! The kitchen at Mount Vernon was stocked with ten ice cream pots.


The story of how ice cream went from elite dessert to national sensation is rooted in Baltimore.

A milkman named Jacob Fussell ran four routes throughout the city and always had a little milk and cream left over – from which he made small batches of ice cream. Expanding production, he opened the first ice cream factory in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania in 1851. Some of that ice cream was shipped by rail to Baltimore and as Fussell’s business became successful he moved his factory to Baltimore in 1854. This mass production of ice cream made the dessert more accessible to everyone.

For his contributions, Jacob Fussell is often called ‘The Father of the Ice Cream Industry.’ One hundred years later, in 1951, Baltimore held an Ice Cream Centennial hosted by then Governor McKeldin who first declared it National Ice Cream Day! On that day, a plaque to commemorate Fussell was unveiled and 10,000 cups of ice cream were given away.


If you’re looking for some tasty local ice cream this summer, check out Maryland’s Ice Cream Trail!

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This post was written by Maggie Pelta-Pauls, a Waxter Intern with Preservation Maryland. A graduate of The College of William and Mary, Maggie is primed to research and write about Maryland history – especially culinary history. Learn more about Maggie and our The Waxter Memorial Internship program here: