The Memorial Day weekend brings to mind summertime and ice cream. Many of us will take the time and effort to make it at home. Ice cream freezers come in electric or hand crank powered versions. The basic design of a gear driven paddle within a metal container within another container is pretty much standard.
Even though people have been enjoying some form of frozen dairy dessert for many years, the mundane, commonplace ice cream maker we know is a fairly recent invention. Prior to the hand-cranked machine we know, was the more primitive sorbetiere. A sorbetiere is basically a metal can with a large handle incorporated into its lid.
The chef pours the ice cream liquid into the can, fastens the lid and places it into a tub or bucket of ice and salt. He or she then agitates the sorbetiere by twisting it back and forth in the ice solution. Eventually, the cream mixture inside the can freezes with frozen dessert as the result.
In 1843, Philadelphia housewife Nancy M. Johnson figured out a more efficient way to create ice cream. Her device was more like a butter churn than a sorbetiere. Johnson utilized gears to drive the rotation of a metal can within a larger pail.
Ingeniously, she added curved paddles to the inside of the metal can. The paddle not only churned the dairy mixture, but also continuously scraped frozen mixture from the sides of the inner can. The curved shape of the paddles forced the frozen cream to the center. Repeated cranking of the machine’s handle blended frozen mixture with liquid to more quickly create ice cream.
In September of that year, Johnson was granted a patent for her “artificial freezer” ice cream maker. Unfortunately, Johnson did not have the means to develop and manufacture her invention, so she sold the rights to her patent for $200 to William Young of Baltimore, Maryland, in 1846. Young soon manufactured and marketed the machine by the name, “Johnson Patent Ice Cream Freezer”.
In the meantime, Young refined Johnson’s original design and filed for a new patent. On May 30, 1848, Young received U.S. Patent #5,601 for “An improvement in ice-cream freezers”. Although there were many variations of the ice cream freezer by other inventors, Nancy Johnson’s original design and patent remains the most popular machine of all time.