Yummy, Ice Cream!

April 15th, 2016

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

Colored image of bowls of cherry-chocolate-ice creamLet me start by saying that I LOVE Ice Cream!  I guess I am not alone, either.  According to the International Dairy Foods Association the beginnings of ice cream date back to about second century B.C.E. (though there is no absolute date or inventor on record).  Apparently Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar, a confection that sounds to me like a snow cone. Nero Claudius Caesar also favored a similar dish sending Roman runners into the mountains for the snow.

About a thousand years later Marco Polo returned from his travels in the Far East with a recipe that resembled what we think of today as sherbet. Historians believe that this recipe may have evolved into ice cream around the 16th century.  England seems to have developed ice cream; they called it cream ice, about the same time or perhaps even a little earlier than the Italians.  France was introduced to ice cream in 1553 by the Italian Catherine de Medici when she became the wife of Henry II of France.  About 1660 ice cream became available to the general populace.

Page from the 1905 City Directory

Page from the 1905 City Directory

A letter written in 1744 by a guest of the Maryland Governor mentions ice cream, and a merchants records indicate that George Washington spent about $200 on ice cream during the summer of 1790.  President Jefferson is said to have had a favorite ice cream recipe that resembled Baked Alaska, plus a favorite vanilla ice cream recipe.

Ice cream for the common man and woman became available about 1800 and manufacturing ice cream soon became an industry in America, pioneered in 1851 by a Baltimore milk dealer named Jacob Fussell.  Hooray for Jacob Fussell! Today the United States is second out of the top five ice cream consuming countries in the world with 5.5 gallons of ice cream eaten per capita. New Zealand comes in at number one with 7.5 gallons per person.

Black and white photography of a horse drawn delivery service carriage

Isenman’s Delivery Service

Geneva has had its share of ice cream manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and soda fountains (selling ice cream as well as soda).  The 1960 City Directory shows Chalet Ice Cream, Kwik-Shake Inn, Mello-Rich Guernsey Farms, Tarr’s Dairy and Twistee Freez as places to just walk in and buy a dish of ice cream.  Manufacturers were listed as Chalet and Sealtest.  A retailer in ice cream was Margrove Inc. and a wholesaler was Sealtest.  This seems to me like a pretty fair amount of ice cream sources for a small city.  The directory for 1931 shows ice cream parlors such as Appleton’s at 92 Seneca Street and manufacturers like James Davidson/Owens Ice Cream on the corner of Genesee and North Streets and General Ice Cream Corp on Avenue D near the Lehigh Valley Railroad.  Were there less ice cream stores because of the Depression? I suspect that might be the case. The 1901 City Directory listed seven ice cream parlors: the Geneva Sugar Bowl, Mrs. Dorcas Griger, George Hoefler, L. Isenman, Theodore King, Antonio Questa, and Mrs. Reuben Sherman.  There were three ice cream parlors on Seneca Street, two on Exchange Street, one on Main Street and one on William Street.  I don’t know for sure, but when you think about it many people would have found it hard to keep ice cream available for the length of time we are able to today.  By 1960 the average family could keep a quart of ice cream in their refrigerator freezer for consumption when they wanted it.  They would not have had to go to an ice cream parlor to get a scoop, still there were at least 5 places available in 1960 which shows people like to go out for dessert.

Page from the 1957 Geneva City Directory

Page from the 1957 Geneva City Directory

So what prompted an ice cream blog? My favorite ice cream place recently opened for the season and I am looking forward to a dish of my favorite flavor soon!  Ice cream means good weather, light-hearted fun, the opportunity to feel like a child again. Who wants to pass up that chance?  Keep your eyes open readers, as robins are a harbinger of spring, so too are ice cream stands reopening across the area!

If you want to learn some fun facts about Ice Cream check out Ice


2 responses to “Yummy, Ice Cream!”

  1. Jack Bryan says:

    Isenman’s at 150 Castle St. was where my parents first met in 1941. My dad’s scrap book includes Isenman’s menu from 1935. A milkshake was 10 cents and “with ice cream 5 cents extra”! There is also a note, “Isenman’s – the old hangout for the high school gang”. The gang included Charlie Kenney, Bill Dobbin and Bob Winship.. My dad was GHS class of 1935.

  2. David Verstreate says:

    We lived around the corner from Margrove’s on North Street. I can remember in the Summer waking to the sound of the delivery trucks heading out on their rounds. And of course heading out for a Maple Walnut cone or a milkshake. They also served a pig’s dinner although I never tried that one.

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