We The Kids

“Returning God
to America’s Story”

The Johnson Patent Ice-Cream Freezer – By Daniel Sheridan

#OTD

The U.S. Constitution reads, “The Congress shall have power…to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…”

Nancy Johnson took advantage of this sweet provision on September 9, 1843, who was issued patent #3254 for her hand-cranked ice cream maker and freezer machine. The patent read,

“Be it known that I, NANCY M. JOHNSON of the city of Philadelphia and State of Pennsylvania, have invented a new and useful improvement in the Art of Producing Artificial Ices, and that the following is a full and exact description of the machinery for carrying into effect the said improvement.”

The making of ice cream is an art! Here’s how Nancy’s invention works. There’s an outer can, or wood pail, which holds crushed ice and salt. A smaller cylinder, placed inside the can, holds the ice cream mix. Salt lowers the freezing point of the ice, which causes the ice cream mix to freeze when it comes into contact with the cylinder. When one turns the hand crank, it shaves off the frozen layer, leaving a new one to freeze. There’s your fresh ice cream.

Nancy, in her patent, gives practical advice on how to save money if salt is too expensive. You can read the whole patent online by searching Patent No. 3254.

Nancy was forced by circumstance to sell her patent rights for $200, having never made a fortune off her genius invention. The person who purchased it honored Nancy by naming her machine “Johnson Patent Ice-Cream Freezer.”

I couldn’t find much information about Nancy herself; she seems to have faded off the pages of history. Let us honor the memory of Nancy Johnson the next time we eat ice cream.

Ice cream is truly an art!

Daniel Sheridan


“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” ― Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

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