In 1846 Williams & Company a small Philadelph based wholesaler of kitchen appliances purchang the patent for a new hand cranked machine that could speed up the process of making ice cream Over the next thirty years there would be more than seventy improvements to the machine they had shrewdly procured for a mere $200, but what Williams & Company could not buy, however, was the credit for having invented the machine.
That distinction belongs to a humble Philadelphia housewife named Nancy Johnson who lacked both the money and the business savvy to promote her invention and sold the patent to her machine, which went on to be marketed as “Johnson’s Patent Ice-Cream Freezer.” Nancy Johnson then proceeded to fade quietly back into the obscurity from whence she had come.
Johnson’s innovative design involved placing the ice-cream’s ingredients of ice, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and salt in a tin with a removable lid and a scraping device to prevent the mixture from sticking to the sides of the tin. Hand-cranking enabled the ice and salt to mix together and freeze more rapidly than previous methods of hand-stirring with a wooden spoon.
Prior to Johnson’s invention, making ice-cream was a laborious, labor-intensive process that saw the confection as a treat for the sole enjoyment of the upper classes. Once in the hands of Williams & Company, ice-cream makers were available for just $3 and were inexpensive enough finally to bring ice creams to the masses.
The first ice-cream factory opened in Baltimore in 1851, and smooth, textured ice creams was developed in the United States in 1938.
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