Vintage Summer Amusements: Ice Cream

Happy summer solstice everyone! Since today marks the beginning of the long, hot, sticky months on the Lower East Side, we at the Museum thought a little research about what life was like back in the turn-of-the-century summers would be appropriate. How did local residents beat the heat before air conditioned subways, ceiling fans, or even refrigerators? We have collected some of the best stay-cool tips from our neighbors past – stay tuned each week for a new summer tip fresh from the ice box.

"A summer scene in the streets of New York -- the ice-cream man." Thanks to the New York Public Library for the image! Click on the image for more details.

This week we decided to look into everyone’s favorite summer treat, ice cream!

While the original ice cream cone was invented in St. Louis in 1904, a local Italian immigrant New Yorker named Italo Marchiony invented a new model of ice cream cone. We discovered that his teacup shaped mold was actually patented a year earlier, in 1903. From an account written by his daughter, we found that he started his cool confections career as an ices vendor on Wall Street in the 1890s. He peddled his sweet treats in small liquor glasses, but the expense of maintaining the cups and replacing the broken ones motivated our friend Marchiony to invent an edible, and thereby disposable, ice cream container. This container design was successful enough for Marchiony to open up a series of pushcarts selling his new treats all over lower Manhattan – possibly one in our neighborhood! This local merchant turned innovator recreated how New Yorkers enjoyed their traditional summer snack.

Here in our neighborhood, people of all ages would enjoy a refreshing “pennylick”. This name referred to the price of a scoop of ice cream and the small liquer glasses used before Marciony’s innovation. We could not find any information, but were curious about whether the price changed with the advent of the edible cup.

How do you enjoy your ice cream – cone or cup? What are some of your favorite ice cream places on the LES? Please post your comments below. Meet ya for a sweet treat!
Categories: Blog, History, Lower East Side, Recipes

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