History of the Ice Cream Truck (2023)

What could be a more quintessential summer experience than the sound of an ice cream truck driving by, running out of the house to catch up, and then wolfing down a sweet frozen treat?

People have been performing this seasonal ritual since the invention of the ice cream truck, i.e. since the early 20th century. Since then, these mobile pastry shops have become popular hotspots across the country. But it's not all rainbows and sprinkles. A lot of controversy has been generated around the ice cream over time, and operators now face an awkward future.

Let's take a look back at 100 years of ice cream truck history.

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first ice cream truck

The origin of the ice cream truck dates back more than a century. In 1920, confectioner Harry Burt of Youngstown, Ohio, invented a chocolate coating that could be used to cover ice cream. He gave this delicacy to his daughter, who was pleased with the taste but not so pleased with the mess it left behind. Her brother came up with a solution: put the doorknob inside. Burt had previously developed a hard candy lollipop with a stick handle. By freezing these sticks in ice cream sticks, Bert revolutionized the way we eat ice cream. He calls his new creation "The Humor Stick".

At this point, Bert is already delivering ice cream in a motorized truck. But because his new ice cream doesn't have to be served in a bowl or cone, he can sell it directly to consumers on the street. He bought 12 refrigerated trucks, fitted them with bells, and sent the entire fleet out to sell candy. Burt also became the first person to open a truck and sell ice cream.

History of the Ice Cream Truck (2)

good mood increases

Thanks to clever marketing tactics, the company's prosperity didn't last long. Street ice cream at the time, usually sold from carts, didn't get the best reviews. It is notoriously made from poor quality ingredients and is often the cause of food poisoning. To stand out, Good Humor's fleet consists of bright white trucks. The drivers all wear similarly colored uniforms, similar to those of hospital orders. The company takes cleanliness and looks so seriously that it even has themTraining ManualWe instruct drivers to "get proper rest each night, eat good food...and always shave and trim carefully."

In addition to impeccable appearance, a good sense of humor is mainly thanks to Prohibition. While Americans seek solace from one indulgence, another is deprived. It is estimated that ice cream consumption increased by 40% in the 1920s.

Together, these factors contribute to a good mood. In 1932 alone, the company sold 14 million gold bars in New York and Chicago, according to Smithsonian Magazine. By the mid-1930s, Good Humor trucks were in most countries. In the 1950s, the company had a fleet of 2,000 ice cream vans.

Mid-20th Century Ice Cream Trucks

After World War II, when wartime rationing of dairy products was abolished, ice cream consumption increased. According to them, Americans consumed more than 20 liters of ice cream per person in 1946International Dairy Federation. Increased demand has led to increased competition in the ice cream van industry.

The most famous newcomer was Mister Softee, founded in Philadelphia in the mid-1950s by brothers William and James Conway. The pair were working for an ice machine manufacturer when they received increasing orders for truck-mountable machines. However, it is The jury-rigged technology inevitably leads to mechanical problems.

They took the ice machine and bolted it to the truck,” said Jim Conway, William’s son and current vice president of Mister Softee. “But it didn’t work out well for a number of reasons. You need shocks, and you need to know how to cool your machine.

History of the Ice Cream Truck (3)

The Conways concluded that the ice cream van had to be built specifically for the task. However, their employers do not want to invest the time and money required to produce such vehicles. So the brothers decided to build a better ice cream truck. That's exactly what they've done: They've created a machine specifically designed to produce perfectly smooth, soft ice cream from the back of a moving truck. Over the years, the Conway family gradually expanded their truck fleet, but soon realized a more profitable business was selling trucks through franchises. From 1955 to 1970, the Mister Softee franchise grew 3,600%.

I was still in a good mood. In the 1960s, ice cream came in more than 85 different flavors. However, the collapse of the ice cream truck business was predictable. In 1975, New York City charged the company with hundreds of counts of falsifying food safety records to conceal evidence of bacteria in its products. About 10 percent of Good Humor ice cream sold between 1972 and 1975 was contaminated, authorities claim. Severe trials and penalties, along with declining sales, increased competition and the fuel crisis of the 1970s, led Good Humor to abandon its trucking business and focus solely on grocery sales.

ice cream truck song story

Few sounds whet your appetite like the ice cream truck bell. But the reason for this seemingly innocuous melody is downright indigestion. The tune heard on many ice cream trucks is based on the 19th-century folk song "Turkey in the Straw," which in turn is a cover of the older British song "The (Old) Rose Tree." In the 18th century, "Turkey in the Straw" was incorporated into performances by traveling bards, thereby acquiring new, decidedly racist lyrics. In the 1890s, this new version could often be heard in ice cream parlors, where popular bard songs of the time were often played. When ice cream vendors started selling their product from their trucks and needed a way to advertise their presence on the street, they chose this popular song.

To right this wrong, Good Humor recently teamed up with legendary rapper and producer RZA for a video like thisnew ice cream truck sounds. The song is available free to motorists across the country.

Mister Softee's melody was also adapted from an earlier song. The work is based on an early 20th-century composer, Arthur Pryor.whistle and his dogIn 1960, an advertising executive hired Les Waas in PhiladelphiatextHe wrote a song called "Jingle And Chimes".

Frozen last bite?

It's hard to imagine the ice cream trucks that were once a staple of American cuisine not snaking their way through the neighborhood streets on a hot summer day. But that could soon be a reality. "Sadly, [ice cream trucks] are a thing of the past," said Steve Christensen, executive director of the North American Ice Cream Association.

The devastating combination of rising ice cream costs, rising gasoline prices, and increasingly expensive vendor licenses means that ice cream parlors lose most of their operating profits. Add to that the intense competition in the frozen food market, and you can see why many owners now consider the business unsustainable. So the next time you see an ice cream truck nearby, be sure to grab an ice cream cone or two to remind yourself of the old days.

Now that you're thinking about ice cream, read onbest seatOne or two bullets in the northeast!

As shown in the picture:Carla Lively-Rinaldi/ CC BY-ND 2.0


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