The U.S. dairy industry produces more than 1.6 billion gallons of ice cream a year, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. Americans eat 48 billion scoops of ice cream a year—$20 billion worth. Photo by Kei U. | Fotolia.




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July 2006
Last Updated August 2017

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Ice Cream

The History Of Frozen Custard (a.k.a. Soft Serve)

Page 6: The Invention Of Frozen Custard


This is Page 6 of an eight-page article on the history of ice cream. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.


1919: Frozen Custard

  • Credit for the accidental invention of frozen custard is often given to Tom Carvel, a.k.a. Thomas Carvellus. However, the real credit seems to belong to the unheralded Archie C. Kohr, who re-configured an ice cream machine in 1919 and added eggs to the recipe to create a light and fluffy product that “tasted just like a custard.” It was a big hit at Coney Island in New York City. While Kohr did not become a household name, Kohr Brothers is still selling frozen custard made from Archie’s original recipe, and has stores in 10 states. You can read more about it here.
  Kohr Brothers
Archie Kohr of Coney Island, not Tom Carvel, invented the first frozen custard.
  • As the Carvel story goes, Tom Carvellus, who sold ice cream from a truck, got a flat tire in Hartsdale, New York during the 1934 Memorial Day Weekend. As the ice cream started to melt, he sold the soft, now creamier, product as something new. It was a huge success, and soft ice cream was born—or perhaps, born again. (Some premium ice cream manufacturers recommend that you leave the container on the counter to soften for 10  minutes for the same reason: It becomes creamier and tastier.)
The original Carvel store. Photo courtesy Carvel.
  • Carvellus opened a modest Carvel Frozen Custard store in 1934 in Hartsdale. In 1936, according to the company website, he opened another Carvel ice cream store, and went to work developing ice cream machinery. He built his first soft-serve ice cream machine in 1939—20 years after Archie Kohr and his futuristic-looking machine (photo above).
  • Carvel was a true innovator: he was the first to offer “buy one, get one free”; the first to franchise an ice cream store; and his patented glass building was copied by McDonald’s. Carvel’s Flying Saucer sandwich was introduced in 1951.
  • Competitor Dairy Queen opened its first soft-serve ice cream store in Joliet, Illinois in 1940. They seem to be the originator of the term “soft serve,” although other midwestern emporia such as Kopp’s in Milwaukee use the term “frozen custard.”


Continue To Page 7: Ice Cream Novelties

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