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Sheet Music of the Week: We All Scream for Ice Cream Edition

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"The ice-cream quick step"
“The ice-cream quick step” by J.R. Garcia. Boston, 1841.

The following is a guest post from retired Music Cataloger Sharon McKinley

Once again, National Ice Cream Month is upon us, and oh, yes, we all scream for ice cream! Since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday bill into law, there has been official American recognition of one of my favorite foods. The third Sunday (or should that be Sundae?) in July is National Ice Cream Day, but we get to celebrate for a whole month. OK, so some of us celebrate all year ’round. In July, it’s official!

Web pages I consulted disagree with each other about the origins of ice cream. See the  International Dairy Foods Association and  some interesting information from Colonial Williamsburg. Marco Polo may have brought sherbet back to Europe from the Far East in the 13th century, and this probably evolved into ice cream in the 16th and 17th centuries. Not long after, it made its way to the New World, and ties to future Library of Congress collections quickly appeared. An important part of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson papers is this ice cream recipe. It’s vanilla, of course, that fabulous base of so many good things!

As early as 1836, references to ice cream were appearing in American newspapers. A delightful little article entitled “La Grange Gardens” appeared in  New Orleans True American on April 1, 1837.

Fast-forward to 1841, and Lee’s Saloon in Boston is bringing in customers with that wildly popular, if still somewhat rarefied treat, ice cream. Although the first ice cream factory wouldn’t be built until 1851, finally bringing brain freeze to the masses, we have proof that many were already enjoying the icy confection in The ice-cream quick step, by J.R. Garcia. Check out the vastness of Lee’s Saloon on the cover of “The Ice-Cream Quick Step“! Was Garcia really moved by respect for William Lee, or was he just a hired hand? Maybe he got free ice cream in return for his work. You could buy the music right at Lee’s Saloon, and throughout the city, so it obviously served as both memento and advertising.

The first commercial ice cream factory in America was built by Jacob Fussell in Baltimore in 1851. The company was around for many decades, expanded to DC, and had an ice cream monopoly at Washington Senators games at Griffith Stadium in the 1920s.

The ice cream girl. c1913. Prints and Photographs collection, Reproduction Nmber LC-USZ62-66300
The Ice Cream Girl. c1913. Prints and Photographs collection, Reproduction Nmber LC-USZ62-66300

With a classic case of misunderstanding, the comedic song and chorus entitled, “I Scream or Ice Cream”  from 1877, by M.H. Thornton, shows what you can do with that old I scream/Ice cream joke. It would take a pretty good ear to hear who was singing “I scream,” and who was chanting “Ice cream!” But the results are hilarious.

Ice cream is also represented in our collection of 19th-century song sheets, such as  “Charming Jane Louisa,” by H. De Marsan.  We leave you now with this irresistible photograph, as we head off for a well-deserved break at the Good Humor truck.


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