The ice cream truck is one of the most iconic images of Americana. Few don’t have vivid childhood memories of hearing the jingle of the ice cream truck and running to the street with a handful of spare change for a cold treat on a hot day. Have you ever wondered where this nostalgic summer tradition began?
Today’s ice cream trucks are far more advanced than the earliest versions that appeared in the 1830s. Street vendors offered penny licks to the lower and working classes and children. Penny licks were merely a scoop of ice cream in a glass that customers would lick clean. After the ice cream was eaten, the customer would return the glass to the vendor who would quickly rinse it out and serve it to the next hungry customer.
By the 1860s, penny licks and the new (and much more sanitary) ice cream sandwich were popular street foods. These enterprising street vendors are considered to be the pioneers of the modern-day ice cream truck. Soon, advances in technology made making ice cream easier and more economical, creating an ice cream phenomenon in America.
However, there is one man who is credited with being the original ice cream man. And his name is Harry Burt. Harry owned an ice cream shop in Ohio. He set out to make an innovative ice cream bar, one that would have a creamy, vanilla ice cream center and a smooth, chocolaty outer layer.
He was successful, but there was one problem. The bar made a huge mess when eaten. This was when he stumbled upon an innovation that would change the way Americans eat ice cream. Harry inserted a lollipop stick into the ice cream bar, and the rest is history.
If you haven’t already guessed, Harry Burt created the first ever Good Humor bar. But he wasn’t done innovating yet. You see, by this time it was the 1920s and technology was advancing quicker than ice cream melted. The booming fast food craze along with advancements in the automobile industry meant a lot of opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs like Harry.
Harry decided to combine these trends and create the first-ever ice cream trucks. He purchased twelve refrigerator trucks and painted them a crisp, clean white. Driving around the city, the trucks would chime a bell indicating that the Good Humor man was in the neighborhood and open for business. Harry even thought tactically about how to increase business.
His drivers wore crisp white uniforms to demonstrate the cleanliness and safety associated with the Good Humor brand. Harry also smartly advertised regular routes, so families and hungry children would know exactly when to expect the ice cream truck in their neighborhood.
Soon, Harry had competitors. His first came in the form of the Conway brothers who served soft-serve ice cream out of their Mister Softee truck in Philadelphia. The Conway brothers are credited with creating the first official ice cream truck jingle!
The history of ice cream and the ice cream truck is genuinely fascinating. Sweet Treats is proud to carry on the tradition started by the originals all those years ago. Our own innovations in the ice cream truck industry (like our ice cream motorcycles) are only just the start!