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Women Pioneers of Ice Cream | How Nancy Johnson & Agnes Marshall Shaped the Ice Cream Industry

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In honor of Women's History Month, it's fitting to spotlight the monumental contributions of women to the ice cream industry, a sector that has brought joy and sweetness to countless lives. Two pioneers, Nancy M. Johnson and Agnes Bertha Marshall, stand out for their innovative spirit and technical ingenuity, setting the stage for the modern ice cream industry.

NANCY M. JOHNSON

NANCY M. JOHNSON

Nancy M. Johnson, an American inventor, transformed ice cream production with her hand-cranked churn in 1843, marking a significant leap from the labor-intensive "pot freezer" method. Prior to her invention, ice cream was made by stirring ingredients in a metal pot within a bin of ice and salt, a process that often yielded lumpy results. Johnson’s invention introduced a more efficient, consistent way to make ice cream, featuring concentric cylinders, a lid, paddle, and crank, which allowed for smoother ice cream and laid the foundation for the industry's future mechanization. Her patented design  not only made ice cream making more accessible but also set a new standard for homemade ice cream, turning it into an American cultural staple. 

Johnson sold her patent to William Young for $200 (Equivalent to $7,133.93¬†today (2024)), who then named it ‚ÄúThe Johnson Patent Ice-Cream Freezer,‚ÄĚ commemorating her legacy in the industry's evolution.

Agnes Bertha Marshall 

Across the Atlantic, another woman, Agnes Bertha Marshall, was making her mark in the ice cream industry. Known as the "Queen of Ices," Marshall was an English culinary entrepreneur who took the art of ice cream making to new heights in the late 19th century. In 1885, she patented a design for an ice cream machine under her husband's name, titled "machine for freezing cream, &c." This invention was a significant leap forward, as it allowed for the commercial production of ice cream on a much larger scale than before. Marshall's machine was an early version of the modern ice cream freezer, capable of making ice cream in just five minutes. Beyond her inventions, Marshall was a prolific author, writing books that included recipes for a wide variety of ice creams and frozen desserts, further popularizing ice cream in England and beyond. Her innovative techniques and recipes have had a lasting impact on the ice cream industry.

The legacies of Nancy M. Johnson and Agnes Bertha Marshall are a testament to the pivotal role women have played in shaping industries through innovation and resilience. Their contributions went beyond mere inventions; they changed the cultural landscape, making ice cream a symbol of joy and community. As we celebrate Women's History Month, it's essential to remember and honor these pioneers who, through their ingenuity and perseverance, have made lasting contributions to our culinary heritage. The ice cream industry, as we know it today, owes much to these remarkable women, whose sweet legacies continue to delight generations.

 

References:

New-York Historical Society. (n.d.). Ice Cream Maker Patent. Women & the American Story. Retrieved from https://wams.nyhistory.org/expansions-and-inequalities/industry-and-immigration/ice-cream-maker-patent/

Smithsonian Institution. (n.d.). Inventive Minds: The Queen of Ices. Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Retrieved from https://invention.si.edu/inventive-queens-ices

National Trust Collections. (n.d.). Ice cream maker, patent model used by Agnes Marshall, 1885. Retrieved from https://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/652842


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