American Homemade Ice Cream Freezer in the 1800s


Ice cream has been around for more than 1500 years. As an American dessert it was served by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to their guests.

Aunt Sallie Shadd, a freed slave, opened a catering business in Wilmington and was known as the inventor of ice cream. Her new dessert sensation was a mix of frozen cream, sugar, and fruit. Dolly Madison was so impressed with it that it became part of the White House menu. The discovery of the mixing of ice and salt to lower and control the temperature of ice cream during the manufacturing process was a great advancement in food history.

African-American Augustus Jackson is credited with this discovery in 1832. He created several ice cream flavors, recipes, and methods of manufacturing ice cream. He sold ice cream in tin cans to Philadelphia’s ice cream parlors and restaurants. He is known as “the father of ice cream”. Nancy Johnson patented a hand-cranked freezer that used the salt and ice mixture that is still in use today. This was done in 1846, and in 1848 the Johnson Patent Ice-Cream Freezer” was patented.

The Improved Domestic Ice Cream Freezer

In 1892, an “Improved Domestic Freezer” was invented for household use for quickly preparing ice-cream, sherbets, coffee, and other desserts. The apparatus was constructed using a different plan than the normal hand-cranked freezer and the simplicity of it’s mechanical construction and operation was very desirable. The item was known by the trade name “Jack Frost Freezer”, manufactured by the American Vending Machine Manufacturing Company.

The operation was very simple, the ice and salt mixture (6 times as much ice as salt) was put into the cylinder and sealed with a wooden plug. This eliminated the possibility of the cream mixing with the ice and salt. The cream was put into the pan below the cylinder and when the cylinder was turned the ice cream formed on the cylinder. It could be scraped off and the ice and salt mixture used again for another batch. The ice cream could also be left on the cylinder for a couple of hours without fear of melting. The manufacturer claimed that this freezer worked faster, stayed colder and, with less moving parts, was less likely to malfunction.

1890s Traditional Ice Cream Freezer

A more traditional freezer was the “White Mountain Freezer”. It had the typical bucket look with the handle and gears on top. The tub was made from selected Northern pine, banded with galvanized iron hoops, and treated to make it waterproof. The cans were made from a heavy grade of charcoal tin plate, and the outside of the castings galvanized to prevent rusting and the gears completely covered. The dasher was made in two parts, each having an independent movement. While the crank was being turned, the cream was constantly being beaten and agitated, a big advantage over the others that only had one dasher. The dasher was also made of iron. Now we have electric motors turning the crank, but since 1846, the method has been basically the same.

1877 Ice Cream Recipes

The classic 1879 cookbook, Housekeeping in Old Virginia, edited by Marion Cabell Tyree, contained fifty recipes for Ice Cream, Frozen Custard, Ice, and Sherbet. The flavors included Pineapple, Caramel, Chocolate, Bisque, Plumbiere, Lemon, Watermelon, and Orange. A good description of the proper use of the freezer is at the beginning of the section ICE CREAM AND FROZEN CUSTARD.


  1. Manufacture and Builder 1892 edition Vol. 24 Issue 1 & 4
  2. Housekeeping In Old Virginia, A Favorite Recipes Press Reprint of 1879 edition, Publ;ished 1965