Fun Food Stories

The History of the Ice Cream Van

There are some parts of modern day mythology and culture that we take for granted. We don’t think about some objects or things that we see in popular culture, because they have always been there and have been a part of ours and even our parents’ society for a long time.

A part of culture and history that you see every now and then is the ice cream van or truck, something you are more likely to see in the United States more than anywhere else. Like most stories, you have to look back to find the origin of the ice cream truck.

Here is a brief history overview of this interesting vehicle.

Early History of Ice Cream Trucks

The ice cream truck had to start somewhere, like most things. This one had its origins in the 19th century, around the year 1890. A bit of the earliest history saw an increase in sanitation and an increase in technology. Portable refrigerators were available and ice cream vendors had cups and would serve ice cream to people. The cups would then be returned to the vendor, wiped and used for another person.

This was highly unsanitary and richer people paid for ice cream sandwiches instead. Another problem with ice cream was unpasteurized milk. Milk wasn’t really healthy until the 1890s, meaning that it had all sorts of bacteria inside, such as scarlet fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and more. Come the 20th century, all milk was much safer, meaning that it was time for another change in sales and technology.

The Ice Cream Trucks Arrive

Inventions such as portable refrigeration meant that ice was no longer necessary and one could carry a portable fridge and mount it inside a car. The invention of the ice cream cone, which took place at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair rocked the world. Ice cream scooped into a waffle-like cone, amazing.

Come the 1920s, the US had the prohibition, which made things difficult for anyone who enjoyed alcohol, especially spirits and wine. What was the next best comfort food or drink, well, sweets. Ice cream, in particular, took off. 

The first ice cream truck was created by Harry Burt from Youngstown. His company was named Good Humours. He was already making deliveries of ice cream using a vehicle, but then got an idea to put ice cream on a stick and cover it with chocolate. This made delivery and storage easier, because it would be easy to carry it and immediately deliver it to a customer. 

Ice cream trucks became popular because regular ice cream that was sold in cafes, became really expensive during the Depression. On the other hand, ice cream trucks sold much cheaper ice cream while playing music.

This was a brief history overview of the ice cream van or truck.