July 4th History of Ice Cream: A Sneak Peak

July 4th History of Ice Cream: A Sneak Peak


The New-York Historical Society is going all-out for the 4th of July! We’ll have an Independence Day scavenger hunt, a Ben Franklin reenactor, and a whole lot of ice cream. What does ice cream have to do with independence, you ask? Well not that much- very few New Yorkers ate ice cream in the late 1700s; however, ice cream has become an American tradition and a symbol of summer.

Tiffany ice cream forks_1975_14a-d
David-Anderson, ice cream fork, 1880-1890, New-York Historical Society, Inventory Number 1975.14a

We are celebrating this by creating stations in the Smith Gallery where you can learn all about ice cream flavors from the past, what ice cream is made of, the history of ice, and how ice cream was served in the past. Of course, you’ll also get to eat ice cream! We’ll be hand-cranking it all afternoon and giving out samples. Our ice cream will be inspired by the oldest known recipe from 1665. It’s unusual but delicious! To inspire you to come try it, here’s a sneak peak at some ice cream history. Have a look at this utensil that certain New Yorkers once used to eat their ice cream in the late 1800s.

Do you use a fork to eat ice cream? Ice cream forks were fashionable tools that made eating  ice cream extra easy. The points or prongs made allowed eaters to cut into the ice cream, which people often froze into stiff molds.

Fish slice, ca. 1825, New-York Historical Society, Inventory Number: 1937.193

Can you imagine having any utensil that only serves one purpose? Many types of single-use flatware were invented in the nineteenth century. Check out this fish slice.

This tool was created just for serving fish. Both the ice cream fork and fish slice are made of silver and have ornate decorations. These tools’ specificity, material, and level of detail tell us something about their owners. Wealthy people were the only ones who could afford such objects and the lavish meals at which they were used.  Some were more often for show than for actual use!

Come check out other fancy ice cream eating utensils and much more on Thursday. Ice cream will be cranking from 12-4 pm and admission is FREE for anyone under 18. Email familyprograms@nyhistory.org with any questions.


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