Interesting Facts About Ice Cream Trucks

As seen in a Country Living magazine article here7 Fascinating Facts About the History of Ice Cream Trucks:  Americans have long loved the ritual of buying a cold treat on a hot summer day.
It is the song that has launched children into action for generations—as soon as they hear the twinkling sound of "Pop Goes the Weasel" or "The Entertainer," children abandon playground equipment or pick-up ball games, and race to catch the ice cream truck. The history of ice cream street vendors dates back to the nineteenth century and is shaped by advances in technology, and fortunately, sanitation.While much has changed since peddlers first sold dishes of ice cream from carts cooled with ice blocks, for the last few generations, not much has changed about the ice cream truck. 

Children in the 1970s and 1980s also ran toward the truck as soon as the same recognizable music was heard. The main difference is that the treats sold back then—Fat Frogs and Mickey Mouse shaped ice-cream bars —have been replaced by today's popular cartoon characters. While some companies now allow parents to track the truck with GPS, the time-honored set-up is still the same: Customers approach a truck with an open side window, review the menu, and place an order. n the U.S, the ice cream cart began as an urban phenomenon in which working class laborers bought a small dish of ice cream that he or she licked clean. The dish was then returned to the vendor, wiped down, and loaded with a fresh scoop for a new customer. 

Customers with more money—or a healthy fear of infectious diseases—opted for ice cream sandwiches. Milk was not pasteurized in the U.S. until the 1890s, which meant any dairy product was potentially laced with the bacteria that caused scarlet fever, diphtheria, and bovine tuberculosis. Ice cream poisonings were a common event and were regularly reported in the news. Newspapers described ice cream poisoning epidemics in which dozens of fair-goers, picnic attendees, and party guests were stricken or killed. Public health officials, however, initially overlooked dairy contaminates and blamed ice cream poisoning on artificial flavors, specifically vanilla. 

By the turn of the century, ice cream hygiene improved dramatically and fairgoers were no longer afraid to order a cold treat. At the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis, a convenient take-away premiered— the ice cream cone. The thin, crispy waffle had long been a dessert favorite, and rolling the waffle into a cone wasn't a new idea. The novel idea was to scoop ice cream into the cone, and several men who sold concessions at the famed fair fought for recognition as to who was the true creator. 

The rise of the public's interest in ice cream was timed with both technological advances and social change. In the early 1920s, advances in refrigeration meant electric coolers replaced ice deliveries. Electric coolers were far more portable, and made it possible for a chilled ice-box to be placed on a motor car. At the same time, the early 1920s also saw the start of Prohibition and the end of easy access to the daily delight of wine, beer, or spirits. For many Americans, the comfort of fast food and sweets replaced the indulgence lost with banned spirits. The popularity of ice cream parlors and trucks soared during this era. 

The first ice cream truck was credited to Harry Burt of Youngstown, Ohio, who was the creator of the Good Humor brand. Burt was already delivering ice cream from a motorized vehicle when he had the idea to place chocolate covered ice cream bars on a stick. His new Good Humor ice cream "sucker" was easy and clean to eat, which gave him the idea to sell it directly from his truck to consumers on the street. 

Ice cream sold in parlors or stores became a luxury item during the Depression. But ice cream trucks such as Burt's Good Humor brand where able to survive the Depression due to the product's low-cost. Many consumers couldn't afford big ticket items, but they could afford a nickel for an ice cream treat. During this time, vendors began offering economical items such as twin popsicles that parents broke in half and shared with two children. Good Humor trucks and other branded businesses had new competition during the Depression: The street peddler was back with cheap treats made with questionable sanitation practices. But most peddlers were unable to survive the sugar rationing during World War II.