Looking Back: We all scream for ice cream

Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 13, 2016


July is the perfect time to sit back and enjoy an ice cream cone or sundae, and in Birmingham, there are lots of choices when it comes to icy summer treats.

That was true in the early 1900s as well. In 1915, Birmingham Creamery and Ice Manufacturing, founded by George W. Wood, first started to make and distribute ice cream. In 1917, it attracted further backers and capital to grow even more.

Although many old recipes for ice cream exist, it wasn’t until 1899 that a process for breaking down fat globules was patented to give ice cream its smooth texture. From there, the business of ice cream skyrocketed as public demand grew. Ice cream went from a treat made at home to a commercial business studied in universities. In 1915, one of the first textbooks was printed in the United States focusing solely on the making of ice cream.

The flagship product of the Birmingham Creamery was its “Peerless” ice cream, advertised on this card from the Birmingham Museum’s collection. The ice cream was sold along the company’s milk route and from a stucco-covered store on East Maple, between Poppleton and Adams. The ice that the creamery used in its ice creams was made with water from a 180-foot-deep well on the property. 

In 1923, the company was bought by the Michigan Dairy and Produce Co. Shortly thereafter, the Michigan Dairy and Produce Co. also acquired the Birmingham Dairy and upped production to 40 tons of ice cream a day.

— Caitlin Donnelly, museum assistant at the Birmingham Museum