History & Society: A Look at Ice Cream

We all know that ice cream socials are old, but just how old? Read our history of the ice cream social and how to throw your very own!

Welcome back to our “Drawing Board” (aka our Blog) where we brainstorm ideas, test hypotheses, and perform experiments! We also like to spend a lot of time tapping our fingers together like evil scientists to really make sure the verbal, physical, and even metaphysical aspects of our blogs really match our aesthetic — some find it silly, we find it thorough.

Today the scientists working on the Drawing Board have taken a turn into two unfamiliar and challenging fields: history and hospitality. We called our friendly neighborhood Chill-N anthropologists and got to work. While we normally stick to the lab and focus on ice cream creation, we let curiosity get the better of us.

Which means that we got to work learning about the history of the “ice cream social” and how to execute an ice cream social that will put all others to shame. We’ve spent hours testing different activities, decorations, and (of course) ice cream flavors, so that we could provide the very best results. You know what they say, scientists do it better! Okay, so we’ve never actually heard anyone say that, but we’re gonna make it happen.

Did we spend the last week throwing parties, eating hundreds of bowls of ice cream, and playing with arts ‘n crafts? Yeah… for science. Admit it, science is awesome!

Without further delay, let’s get into the findings!

History Of Chill


The oldest written record of food being frozen for consumption dates back to China in 1100 B.C. It’s a poem about the harvest and storage of ice to cool food and townspeople, especially for the summer! You may have heard that the Greeks and Romans used ice to cool their fruit drinks, that’s also true. If you’re looking for more on what’s fact and what’s myth, here’s a great article that debunks each myth one at a time — with evidence even! It warms our cold ice-y creamy hearts.

It’s important to note that for a long time, ice was only available as a natural commodity and the harvest, storage, and use could only be afforded by the wealthy. This meant that ice cream, by definition, was a sweet treat saved for only the most special occasions and special places like the Louvre or Royal Palace. Recipes and the production process of ice cream were rare, valuable, and heavily guarded. However, the tasty dessert has been around for centuries, farther back than the 1600s!

Ice Cream

Our American ancestors and founding fathers often had ice houses on their estates. You can even tour the ice house at Mount Vernon! Ice cream was a colonial joy, and even described as “food fit for the gods,” in an ice cream recipe book published in 1768. Soon after the first ice cream shoppe was born in America and a man named, Filippo Lenzi, created the first advertisement for ice cream in the paper in 1774. 

George Washington loved ice cream so much, as president he had it served to him every Thursday. Believe it or not, both Washington and Jefferson had ice cream machines from France in their houses. The 1800’s was a big year for ice cream! Augustus Jackson discovered the “modern” method of manufacturing ice cream in 1832 with his famous mixture of salt and ice. We say “modern” because 1832 was a loooooong time ago. Which means it’s time for an update to ice cream, good think Chill-N is already living in the future and freezing our ice cream with liquid nitrogen to make it creamier and better. Hmmmmm, maybe our next experiment will be to build a time machine and bring our better, creamier ice cream to George Washington to try… 

In 1843, a woman invented the ice cream hand crank which simplified the process so much that ice cream became much more accessible. Parlors and even manufacturing companies began to pop up across the nation. After the Civil War in 1865, Hokey-Pokey Men were the original ice cream truck men. They offered cheaper, lower quality ice cream in public spaces on hot summer days. In fact, the children even sang a little song whenever they say a Hokey-Pokey Man:

“Hokey-pokey, pokey ho. Hokey-pokey, a penny a lump. Hokey-pokey, find a cake; hokey-pokey on the lake.  Here’s the stuff to make your jump; hokey-pokey, penny a lump. Hokey-pokey, sweet and cold; for a penny, new or old.”

Ice cream became popular at festivals, fairs, and the creation of it became a kitchen skill that women worked hard to perfect. The sweet, chilly dessert was so popular and in such high demand that in 1892, Pennsylvania State College curated the first ever course about ice cream making in higher education.

The 1900’s, which we’re all much more familiar with, allowed for more innovation considering the invention of modern refrigeration and machinery. Ice cream was readily available and enjoyed by all regularly. In fact, the treat became huge propaganda during the First World War after a German officer said to a reporter, “We do not fear that nation of ice cream eaters.” The Red, White, and Blue didn’t care much for such a comment and went on to help win the war, eating ice cream and all. Ice cream remained a symbol of patriotism, considering that soldiers who succeeded in battle were rewarded with 20-gallon buckets of ice cream. The US Navy even commissioned a floating ice cream parlor, which was a barge made of freezers that didn’t even have an engine. Ships tugged it around the Pacific and dispensed ice cream to soldiers. 

Outside of war, ice cream continued to soar in popularity. The cousin of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, became commonplace for keeping food cold during shipping. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced publicly in 1935 that he liked to eat a bowl of ice cream every day (maybe loving ice cream is a presidential requirement that we don’t know about?). Shortly after that, Dairy Queen was established after the invention of soft serve ice cream. Do you know what soft serve is? It’s just the exact same ice cream mix that hasn’t been frozen to its fully solid form. If it feels like soft serve tastes more delicious, that’s because the lower temperature doesn’t numb the tastebuds, meaning you can physically taste more flavor in soft serve. People loved ice cream so much that when DQ offered an “All The Ice Cream You Can Eat For 10 Cents” sale, they served 1,600 servings in two hours.

Ice cream hasn’t changed much from the 1940’s until today. In the 1950’s Häagen-Dazs started the movement that created a demand for gourmet ice cream and with a freezer in everyone’s house in the 1970’s ice cream became a common household item. 1987 brought about the birth of Dippin’ Dots, the ice cream of the future, and the first public introduction of flash frozen ice cream. Today, we’re making what’s already great, greater by refining the chemical formula of ice cream and freezing it instantly, serving by serving with liquid nitrogen. However, the social aspect of ice cream has remained similar. It’s still a delicious, amazing, sought-after treat that’s a huge hit at parties regardless of the age of attendees.

As you can see, both the social and scientific history of ice cream are closely intertwined. As technology advanced, there became more opportunity for people to include ice cream in their lives, making it an inherently social thing. From Presidential Dinners to summer cookouts, “ice cream socials” became a type of party with a life of its own. Even though the term “ice cream social” is old, the parties themselves don’t have to be. Read on for advice on throwing the best ice cream social of the 21st century.

Chill-N's Ultimate Ice Cream Party Plan

Types of Parties

The best kinds of ice cream socials are the ones that fully commit to the theme of ice cream. You might be thinking, “Okay, but what kinds of parties have an ice cream theme?” As it turns out, this is a theme that can easily be as luxurious, extravagant, quirky, bright, or whatever else as you’d like to make it. That means they’re easily adaptable and can be decorated for every occasion. Just off the top of our head, we can think of quite a few:

  • Adult Party (alcohol infused ice cream anyone?)
  • Bridal Showers
  • Birthday Parties
  • Baby Showers
  • Retirement Parties
  • Funerals (let’s celebrate the sweetness of a life well lived!)
  • Neighborhood Block Party
  • Graduation (hey, your dog graduated puppy school, you gotta celebrate!)
  • Anniversary 
  • Friday at Summer Camp (every Friday deserves a party)
  • Retirement Community Get Together (talk about some fun “ice cream breakers”)
  • Employee Appreciation Day
  • National Ice Cream Day
  • Any Reunion (we’re thinking High School, Family, College Frat, Swim Team, Childhood Friends — anybody you’ve ever spent more than two consecutive days with)

Also, when do you really need to have an occasion to celebrate? Contrary to popular belief, there is no just thing as “party police” and you can totally throw a party for absolutely no reason at all. If anyone asks why, we’ve found in our research the best response is “why not?” because there is no good answer for either! Therefore, for our party suggestions, we planned an event that could match any of the above, just customize your color scheme and guest list — you’ll be ready to rock and roll! 


First off, get some fun hats! Sugar cones make the perfect party hat and the internet has no shortage of creative ideas from DIY to supporting your local Etsy artist to Amazon. Speaking of Amazon, this is going to be your best spot for specific decorations. Waffle cone decorated bowls and ice cream scoop spoons? Yes, please! Or, for the ice cream itself, we have our own edible bowl suggestions, but we’ll get to that later. As far as decorations go, you can’t go wrong with pink balloons and brown paper cones taped underneath as some fun party balloons and naturally, this is probably the best and only time, you can haphazardly throw rainbow sprinkles on the table and pass it off as confetti.


A forgotten art of party planning is activities. Yes, of course, the guests will mingle and chat for part of the party but to make your party truly memorable, you gotta take it old school. Remember when there were no phones or television and you had to get extra creative with your games? Regardless of age, these classic people pleasing games (with an ice cream twist!) are sure to get everyone laughing and having a great time. 

Shake It Up — Our favorite game because it’s a game based off our two favorite things: ice cream and science! There’s a bit of preparation involved, like with any science experiment. Make an ice cream mixture and chill it. Then when it’s time, pour the mixture into several sealed plastic bags. People in the party should form groups of two – four; each group gets a bag. Then it’s like hot potato! Pass the bag around person to person as fast as possible. The friction will churn the ice cream, whoever ends up with the bag once the ice cream is prepared is the winner!

Cherry Kisses — Set up two or three teams for this next relay race. Each team member gets a straw and line up at one end of the course. There should be a short distance (think 15 feet)  marked with an empty bowl at one end and a bowl full of maraschino cherries at the other. The relay teams should line up behind the empty bowls. The first team member will run to the other bowl and pick up a cherry by sucking it up with their straw! Then, holding the cherry in place with their breath, carry it back and drop it in the empty bowl. After the cherry is dropped, the next team member can go. The team to bring back the most cherries in two minutes wins!

Sprinkle Sprints — Using the same relay teams, have each team form a line shoulder to shoulder and give each person a sugar cone. One person on the end should have a large bowl filled with rainbow sprinkles next to them and the person on the other end should have a small, empty bowl next to them. The object of the game is to fill the small bowl with sprinkles from the big bowl, easy enough right? Nope! There’s a catch, teammates can only pass the sprinkles using their sugar cones! First team to fill their small bowl wins!


It may sound silly, but ice cream is not for everyone, so you should be sure to provide other food at your party as well. No worries though! Your non ice cream food can still be disguised like ice cream. Think of it like a costume party for food. Not sure what we mean by that? Well, we’re thinking some delicious Nutter Butter cookies dipped in white frosting and sprinkles, look just like ice cream cones! Other great non ice cream foods to include at an ice cream social are fresh fruit, lemonade, brownies, lemon bars, and shortbread cookies.

Ice Cream & Chill-N

Don’t forget the most important part! The sweet, chilly, delicious dessert that has proven to stand the test of time: ice cream! Many party planning blogs are filled with great advice, such as putting sundae toppings separate in a muffin tin, or to use cookie dough to bake edible ice cream bowls (yum!). Many blogs will even tell you to save time by pre-scooping ice cream and freezing the scoops. However, there’s the beauty of having a liquid nitrogen ice cream party with Chill-N! No pre-frozen scoops necessary! Each party guest can go crazy with flavors, toppings, and all the combinations they can imagine because the servings can be flash frozen before their very eyes for their enjoyment. Talk about party magic! By magic, we mean science, but you get the idea. If you’re as excited about ice cream parties as we are, do like we did and throw one of your own! These Florida summers have been hot and fierce lately, so even if you don’t feel like planning a party, we suggest grabbing a few friends and going out for ice cream anyways. Celebrate the brilliant history of ice cream by visiting your local Chill-N on these hot summer days.

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