The Ice Cream Sandwich and The Pushcart Peddler

Oh, those frozen confections of a layer of ice cream sandwiched between two biscuits, cookies, or slices of cake. Hurray for the ice cream sandwich which ranks right up there as one of the best selling ice cream “novelties” in the US.

At the beginning of the 20th century, New York City’s elite bought their scoops of ice cream in fancy confectioners’ shops – often shaped as fruit and vegetables to be served at high end parties.

The rest of the population bought their ice cream from street peddlers who scooped ice cream into “penny licks,” glasses the customer licked clean, and then returned to the vendor who washed them by swirling the glass in a bucket of water.

There was another street vendor option called the “hokey pokey,” a small slice cut of ice cream wrapped in paper that was cut from an eighteen inch long brick composed of layers of three flavors of ice cream. Each slice cost one or two pennies — children could buy half a slice for half the price.

The Invention Of The Ice Cream Sandwich

Until an enterprising pushcart peddler on the Lower East Side of New York City came up with a genius idea in the summer of 1900.

That’s when the ice cream sandwich that we have come to know and love was probably invented as a handheld and cheap treat.

In July 1900 The New York Tribune published a piece about the peddler: “The ice cream sandwich man, who sells quarter-inch layers of alleged ice cream between tiny slabs of water wafers, did a big business during the hot spell and his field of operation was within the district inhabited by the Nordic enclaves, and his pushcart was elaborately decorated with signs in runic characters. He made the sandwiches quickly in a tin mold, and was kept so busy that he could not make change, but insisted on receiving the actual price for each ice cream sandwich — 1 cent.”

The Ice Cream Sandwich As An Equalizer

Initially, ice cream sandwiches seemed to serve as equalizers.

An article in the New York Sun (August 19, 1900) stated that down on Wall Street “the brokers themselves got to buying ice cream sandwiches and eating them in a democratic fashion side by side on the sidewalk with the messengers and the office boys.”

But, ice cream sandwiches were quickly made their way indoors, got dressed up, and were served on plates with knives and forks for upscale clientele. But on the streets of Manhattan, the cold treats were still selling like hot potatoes – the peddlers were so busy they couldn’t eve take time to make change. It was pay with a penny or no ice cream sandwich.  Who said exact change only became necessary for bus fares and parking meters?

Some Facts and Some Trivia

  • Nationally, we eat, on average, 48 ice cream sandwiches per second
  • If all the ice cream sandwiches made in a year were placed end to end, they would circle Earth 3 1/2 times
  • 30-44 year olds buy the most ice cream sandwiches
  • People on the eastern seaboard eat almost 50% of all ice cream sandwiches
  • The ice cream sandwich is such an American institution that it is sold at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
  • A regular Good Humor vanilla ice cream sandwich (56g) has 140 calories, 3g fat, 26g carbs, 2g protein
  • National Ice Cream Sandwich Day is August 2nd.



, , , ,


  1. - June 25, 2015 Enjoyed every bit of your post.Thanks Again.

    Enjoyed every bit of your post.Thanks Again.

Leave a Reply