Patent drawing for Nancy Johnson’s Hand-cranked Ice Cream Machine, 1843
June 8th Tuesday Baked in the brick oven pies
cake & brown bread and have been to work
about the house all day untill the stage
came and brought Mr & Mrs Orr It rains
quite hard and I did not expect them
Mrs S Ames & Mrs Witherell called this
evening Had some ice cream frozen in
the new freezer
Evelina baked and did indoor chores all day, but as active as she was she must have been attentive to the arrival of much-needed rain. Old Oliver certainly was, recording that “towards night there was considerable rain, wind south west.”* It was so rainy, in fact, that Evelina imagined that her expected houseguests wouldn’t come. But Robert and Melinda Orr braved the elements and arrived from Boston via stagecoach.
The Orrs were the couple with whom Evelina often stayed when she went into the city. She and Melinda were good friends, but the connection between the two families ran even deeper, all the way back to Bridgewater and the days of ironwork there when Robert Orr’s ancestor, also named Robert, was a maker of scythes and other tools. The Ameses and the Orrs had often crossed paths.
Evelina was ready to welcome Robert and Melinda to her home and had prepared ice cream for the occasion. The ice cream would have been made in a hand-cranked freezer and probably kept cold in the new ice closet. Although it was a specialty that took time and elbow-grease to prepare, it was not quite the novelty that we might imagine.
Ice cream had been around since Colonial days, brought in by the Quakers and quickly adopted by the likes of Ben Franklin and George Washington. By 1813, it was served at the inauguration of James Madison. In 1836, an African-American and former White House chef named Augustus Jackson – also known as the Father of Ice Cream – created a variety of ingredients and improved the over-all techniques. Less than ten years later, in 1843, a Philadelphian named Nancy Johnson received the first patent for a hand-cranked ice cream freezer. Americans took to it in droves, and the frozen dessert only got better as time went by.
When did someone think to serve ice cream with pie? Did Evelina?