July 19 – National Ice Cream Day

In the United States, National Ice Cream Month is celebrated each year in July and National Ice Cream Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in July.

The practice originated with a remarkable 1984 Joint Resolution of Congress, Number 298. (You may be under the impression that Congress doesn’t do cooperation, but when the subject matter is important enough, members step up to the plate, so to speak.) It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on July 9, 1984 with Presidential Proclamation 5219 in which he announced:

“Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim July 1984 as National Ice Cream Month and July 15, 1984, as National Ice Cream Day, and I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Ice cream manufacturers and retailers have kept up the practice.

In fact, ice cream has a long history of presidential attention in America, with fans among the founders of the country itself.

George Washington was very fond of ice cream, and first lady Martha Washington served it at her twice-weekly receptions in Philadelphia. Dinner guests often had apple pie followed by ice cream. (No word on whether anyone thought to combine them at that time.) Mount Vernon historians confirm as well that Martha had a copy of the popular 1751 cookbook with the self-serving title The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet Published by Hannah Glasse which included a recipe for ice cream.

Martha Washington

Martha Washington

Thomas Jefferson was also an aficionado of ice cream, and served it to guests while he was President. There is even a recipe for ice cream in his hand that survives. The Monticello website reports:

“There are no less than six references to ice cream being served at the President’s house between 1801 and 1809; several times guests described it being served inside of a crust or pastry.”

However, it was Dolley Madison, the wife of James Madison, fourth President of the U.S., who tends to get the most credit for popularizing ice cream in the White House. (It should be noted, however, that Dolley had often previously served as a hostess for Thomas Jefferson.) And when Dolley’s husband was elected President, she served ice cream at his second inaugural ball in 1813, as well as for the official dessert of White House dinners. Although for these dinners the dessert was a strawberry “bombe glacee,” for herself she apparently liked adding oysters to her ice cream. You can say what you will about Jefferson, but he stuck to vanilla.

Dolley Madison

Dolley Madison

Here is his Jefferson’s recipe, again from the Monticello website:


2. bottles of good cream.

6. yolks of eggs.

1/2 lb. sugar

mix the yolks & sugar

put the cream on a fire in a casserole, first putting in a stick of Vanilla.

when near boiling take it off & pour it gently into the mixture of eggs & sugar.

stir it well.

put it on the fire again stirring it thoroughly with a spoon to prevent it’s sticking to the casserole.

when near boiling take it off and strain it thro’ a towel.

put it in the Sabottiere* (*The sabottiere is the inner cannister shown in the drawing. There was no crank to turn it; when Jefferson wrote “turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes,” he meant for someone to grab the handle and turn the cannister clockwise and then counterclockwise.)


then set it in ice an hour before it is to be served. put into the ice a handful of salt.

put salt on the coverlid of the Sabotiere & cover the whole with ice.

leave it still half a quarter of an hour.

then turn the Sabottiere in the ice 10 minutes

open it to loosen with a spatula the ice from the inner sides of the Sabotiere.

shut it & replace it in the ice

open it from time to time to detach the ice from the sides

when well taken (prise) stir it well with the Spatula.

put it in moulds, justling it well down on the knee.

then put the mould into the same bucket of ice.

leave it there to the moment of serving it.

to withdraw it, immerse the mould in warm water, turning it well till it will come out & turn it into a plate.


Thomas Jefferson and Ice Cream from San Francisco Chronicle Illustration by Tom Murray


Beat the yolks of 6 eggs until thick and lemon colored.
Add, gradually, 1 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.
Bring to a boil 1 quart of cream and pour slowly on the egg mixture.
Put in top of double boiler and when it thickens, remove and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.
When cool add 2 teaspoonfuls of vanilla.
Freeze, as usual, with one part of salt to three parts of ice.
Place in a mould, pack in ice and salt for several hours.
For electric refrigerators, follow usual direction, but stir frequently.

Happy National Ice Cream Day!!


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8 Responses to July 19 – National Ice Cream Day

  1. Kay says:

    Ice Cream Day – who knew? I love that recipe – 2 bottles of cream…

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I won’t be celebrating today – I don’t like ice cream!

  3. Care says:

    YUM! I was just given an ice cream maker attachment for my kitchen aid mixer and made some this weekend: caramel pecan. Also, Dolley Madison was born about a mile away from where I live now.

  4. I won’t be making my own, but thank you for giving me a reason to head to the local ice cream parlor and celebrate!

  5. Beth F says:

    I have an ice cream maker … maybe I’ll dig it out and make peach ice cream this week.

  6. Oysters and ice cream sounds like a crazy combination; no thanks Dolley Madison.

  7. I’ll have to pull out my ice cream maker and give Jefferson’s (modernized) recipe a try!

  8. Love a bit of ice cream in summer – sometimes eat one made from coconut milk. Cheers

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