Tasteful Inventions: The Genuine Scoop!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Genuine Scoop!

Let's see, what do we know about the history of ice cream in America? Well, here's some ice cream trivia for you. "The first recorded reference to ice cream in the New World was found in a journal entry by a Mr. Black of Virginia dated 1744. It described a dinner party at the home of Maryland's governor, Thomas Bladen, who served a dessert of ice cream made with milk and strawberries." We all know George Washington loved ice cream. And, "ice cream frequently appeared in visitors' accounts of meals with Thomas Jefferson" at Monticello. As a matter of fact, the Library of Congress has Thomas Jefferson's treasured ice cream recipe on their website. James Madison also loved ice cream and his wife Dolley Madison (Dolly Madison) gave ice cream her gracious sanction by serving it in the White House. What else do we know about Ice Cream in America? It seems we know much about prominent people and their love of ice cream but, how much do we know about those who perhaps, are not as famous. Take for instance, the ice cream cone. Was the ice cream cone invented in America? Some say Italian emigrate Italo Marchiony produced the first ice cream cone in New York City in 1896. Gee, I wonder how he got the ice cream from the tub to the cone; the scoop? No. The ice cream scoop wasn't invented in 1896. Hmmm...this sounds like the story of the can before the can opener. You see, the ice cream cone was invented before the ice cream scooper. It wasn't until almost one year later on February 2, 1897 that the “Ice Cream Mold and Disher” (the ice cream scoop) was invented. But, by who. Was it by someone who ate a lot of ice cream? No again. It was invented by an African-American by the name of Alfred L. Cralle who probably ate very little ice cream (ice cream was still the dessert of the rich) but noticed people who tried to dip ice cream into those cones sure did have a difficult time doing it.

Alfred L. Cralle

Alfred L. Cralle was born today, September 4, in 1866. Born in Virginia, Alfred Cralle attended local schools and worked with his father in the carpentry trade as a young man. When he was older, he continued to work with his father in the carpentry business but had a desire to learn more about the mechanics of how things worked. Thank goodness for us, Alfred was sent to Washington D. C. and enrolled in Wayland Seminary, which was a branch of the National Theological Institute. The school was created in 1865 by several Baptist groups to help educate African-Americans after the Civil War. Today it serves as the premier historically black institution of higher education as Virginia Union University. Unfortunately, there isn't much more information available online about Alfred L. Cralle but there is no doubt that his invention was indeed patented by him. 

The Scoop

Alfred Cralle moved to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, where he worked as a porter in a drug store. The idea of an ice cream scoop came to him when he noticed ice cream servers having the most difficult time trying to get the popular confection desired by the customer into the cone they also were craving. What to do? There had to be a better way. The ice cream would stick to everything but needed at least two hands to get into the cone. Some servers found it so frustrating, they would simply use their fingers to push the ice cream into the cone. Not too sanitary I'm afraid. Something was needed to release the ice cream and make for one handed dispensing; the first ice cream scoop with mechanical lever action was patented by Cralle on February 2, 1897 when Alfred L. Cralle was only 30 years old. Now everyone could enjoy eating their favorite ice cream cone thanks to Alfred L. Cralle's invention. It was strong, inexpensive, and it could be shaped like a cone or a mound. Not only that but today more than 200 years after his invention it is still his prototype which is used as the basis for the modern day ice cream scooper. Alfred Cralle's Patent number: 576395 is visibly available at the USPO and also at the google patent website.

...This invention relates to certain new and useful improvements in ice-cream molds and dishers, and has for its object to construct a disher that may be conveniently operated with one hand. The invention has for its further object to construct a disher of the above -described class that will be extremely simple in its construction, strong, durable, effectual in its operation, and comparatively inexpensive to manufacture; furthermore, a disher of this class that can be constructed in almost any desired shape mold and that will have no delicate parts to become broken or disarranged.

It seems to me, many innovative minds have developed a number of other ways to enjoy ice cream. You can see some vintage ice cream dippers in here or take a look at the first hand-cranked ice cream freezer patented by a Philadelphian woman by the name of Nancy Johnson. Wow! another day to celebrate ice cream in September. Her patent was issued on September 9, 1843.

The hand-cranked churn, which also uses ice and salt for cooling, replaced the pot-freezer method. The exact origin of the hand-cranked freezer is unknown, but the first U.S. patent for one was #3254 issued to Nancy Johnson on September 9, 1843. The hand-cranked churn produced smoother ice cream than the pot freezer and did it quicker. Many inventors patented improvements on Johnson's design. source wiki

There are so many indispensable tools and innovations serving up one of America's favorite desserts. Perhaps, you will find the invention of the Eskimo Pie a source of inspiration. There's also the invention of Baked Alaska up at the top left corner to explore. In the meantime, I'm off to Idaho for the Idaho State Fair. You can be sure I will be seeking more information on any tasteful inventions that passes over these lips.


  • 1. What do you know about the history of ice cream?