Know It All: Who Invented Ice Cream?

It’s there to comfort you on a crappy day or satiate your unhealthy appetite during late nights but from where did this treat originate?

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it’s history, language, science, or cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

Who Invented Ice Cream?

Like ice cream itself, the specific origins of the world-famous chilled dessert grow less and less solid as time passes. Icehouses date back over 4000 years but the first documented case of some embryonic form of ice cream is located somewhere in the areas around the Middle East between the 10th and 5th centuries BC.

Greece (of course the Greeks were involved in its creation) and Arab countries represent the first cultures to have developed honey/fruit-flavored, ice-based treats – the Arab countries deserve special credit as they seem to be the first to incorporate sugar, syrup, and milk into their recipes.

History also indicates that the Chinese upper class enjoyed a very similar version of ice cream at an earlier time, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 BC).

Also worthy of note is the fact that, around 400 BC, Persian territories (one of the few areas where ice was readily available to the affluent) produced a sweet, fruity pudding sort of thing comparable to a starchy sorbet.

The first person to produce ice cream on a large scale was Jacob Fussell, who was a dairy salesman in Baltimore, Maryland in the mid-19th century. Fussell was often left with a glut of surplus cream and with this excess, he founded what became a very successful ice cream business – opening what appears to be the world’s first ice cream factory in 1850s Pennsylvania.

Now you know.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.