Ice cream trucks deliver treats and a surprising history


Nitya Thakkar

Ice cream trucks played a role in making the treats more accessible and affordable for middle and lower class citizens.

The unmistakable jingles echo through the streets on a sweltering summer day. Immediately, kids get ready to run out their front door and parents reach for their wallets. The ice cream truck is coming. Although these quintessential summer treats seem commonplace today, they were once only available to the elite.

Ice cream itself first came to America with British colonists. This country’s founding fathers were so intrigued with ice cream that Thomas Jefferson even learned how to make it in France. This sweet delicacy was only available to the elite due to the high prices of sugar and vanilla and the limited access to ice. Then, in the 1800s, it became easier for companies to harvest and transport ice, and technological advances increased access to hand-crank ice cream makers. This new technology, coupled with the influx of immigrants who had few job opportunities, led to an increase in ice cream street vendors who made ice cream more affordable for all. The ability to sell ice cream out of a cart instead of a store was a highlight for many vendors because they could evade high rents and property taxes from owning a storefront.

The combination of high demand for ice cream and the booming auto industry led to the rise in ice cream trucks all across the nation

At first, a bell would signal when the ice cream truck was arriving, but soon after the “Mister Softee” Jingle was playing out of the trucks. Since then, more classical songs have also been heard through the truck’s speakers, such as “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “Turkey in the Straw.” Despite America’s everlasting love for ice cream, it’s craze has dwindled lately due to growing health concerns, leading to the rise in frozen yogurt. Another reason why ice cream truck popularity might be declining is due to safety concerns and the possibility of food contamination. However, ice cream will always feed America’s sweet tooth, and ice cream trucks will continue to brighten children’s faces all across the nation.