Ice cream: Tasty facts you probably didn’t know


Written by:

You scream! I scream! We all scream!

Of course, if we just left it at that, it would feel sad and scary — a lot like last summer when everything was closed and no one could go anywhere, including our favorite ice cream shops.

But this year has been different (if not entirely normal) and chances are you’ve visited your favorite ice cream shop at least once this summer, so let’s all scream for ice cream!

In honor of that, we’re taking a look at the history of ice cream — where it was invented, how it became a summer staple the world over, and which flavors are America’s favorites.

So take a moment and enjoy the tasty images and fascinating facts we’ve compiled just for you.

Marco Polo
bwzenith / iStock

The origins of ice cream

Ice cream — or at least early variations of it — has been around for eons. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, it dates back to as far as the second century, B.C.

“We know that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar,” the IDFA reports. But it was in the 16th century that Marco Polo returned to Italy with a recipe that closely resembles modern sherbet.

Grazi, Marco!

Ice cream cone
maroznc / iStock

Ice cream as we know it evolved from there

According to IDHA, historians estimate that the recipe Marco Polo returned with evolved into ice cream/gelato in Italy sometime in the 16th century. “England seems to have discovered ice cream at the same time, or perhaps even earlier than the Italians,” IDHA reports. ” ‘Cream Ice,’ as it was called, appeared regularly at the table of Charles I during the 17th century.”

And don’t think France wasn’t getting in on the frozen confectionary action. Similar frozen desserts were introduced in 1553 by the Italian Catherine de Medici when she became the wife of Henry II of France, according to IDHA.

“It wasn’t until 1660 that ice cream was made available to the general public,” though. “The Sicilian Procopio introduced a recipe blending milk, cream, butter and eggs at Café Procope, the first café in Paris.”

Ice cream in bowls
bhofack2 / iStock

Ice cream in the new world

“The first official account of ice cream in the New World came from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen,” according to IDHA. “The first advertisement for ice cream in this country appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777, when confectioner Philip Lenzi announced that ice cream was available ‘almost every day.’ ”

George Washington

George Washington bought a LOT of ice cream

President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790, according to IDHA.That’s about $5,800 in today’s dollars.

“Inventory records of Mount Vernon taken after Washington’s death revealed ‘two pewter ice cream pots.’

Thomas Jefferson
Dolley Madison

Ice cream was practically a presidential staple

In 1813, First Lady Dolley Madison reportedly served “a magnificent strawberry ice cream creation” at President James Madison’s second inaugural banquet at the White House.

Ice cream cones inside a factory
asayenko / iStock

You can thank this guy for bringing ice cream to the masses

Ice cream was enjoyed mostly by the elite until around 1800 when insulated ice houses were invented. But it was Baltimore milk dealer Jacob Fussell who pioneered the American ice cream industry. He’s known as the father of the ice cream industry.

Nancy Pelosi
CBS / YouTube

Americans eat a LOT of ice cream

So maybe you don’t spend as much as George Washington did in the summer of 1790 — $5,800 is enough to buy you nearly 1,300 pints of Ben & Jerry’s — that’s about three pints per day for a full year. Perhaps Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi comes close, but even she probably doesn’t eat that much.

On average, Americans eat more than 1.3 billion gallons of frozen dairy products every single year — that’s almost four gallons per year for every American.

US Navy
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Ice cream was a morale booster for troops during World War II

During World War II the military branches tried to outdo each other when it came serving ice cream to troops. According to IDFA, the first “floating ice cream parlor” was built for sailors in 1945 in the western Pacific.

dog ice cream

July is National Ice Cream Month

Back in 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month. So, if you were needing a reason to eat ice cream, now you have it.

Ice cream cones
VeselovaElena / iStock

So which flavors are Americans’ favorites?

Vanilla has long been the best selling ice cream flavor. According to data from it is followed by:

2. Chocolate

3. Cookies and cream

4. Mint chocolate chip

5. Chocolate chip cookie dough

6. Buttered pecan

7. Birthday cake

8. Strawberry

9. Moose tracks

10. Neapolitan

You can bet your bippy these weird ice cream flavors are nowhere near the top of America’s favorite ice creams list.

Want more facts?


Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.