Blast From the Past: Staying Cool in the Summer


It’s hot outside here in the city…a good time for some ice-cold drinks and treats. But we didn’t always have refrigerators and freezers to easily keep these foods cold. People used to have ice delivered to their buildings and homes. This ice was chopped from frozen lakes in the winter, stored in ice houses, where it was kept cool underneath straw, and then delivered in ice carts.

Nicolino Calyo, The Ice-Cart, 1840-44. Thomas Jefferson Bryan Fund

Ice cream has a very long history, even dating back to the 4th century BC. In early America, many famous people served ice cream to their guests, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. And right here in New York City, the first ice cream parlor opened in 1776. I think there is nothing better than eating ice cream out of a wafer cone on a hot summer day. But if you were at a fancy party, wouldn’t you like to see this huge silver bowl heaped high with scoops of your favorite flavors?

Ice cream dish, 1877-1878. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mr. John Mackay
Embodying the extravagant excess of the Gilded Age, this exotic ice cream dish was part of a 1,250-piece dinner service commissioned from Tiffany & Co. by “silver king” John W. Mackay (1831-1902) for his wife, Marie Louise Hungerford Mackay (1843-1928).

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