|By David McCormick
The ice cream mold is a fairly new innovation. It first appeared during the 19th century. Ice cream on the other hand has existed for thousands of years in various forms of iced desserts.
There are early references to the Roman Emperor, Nero, ordering ice to be brought from the mountains and then combined with varieties of fruit. Several hundred years later we have ice being mixed with milk, in order to create a sweet dessert. And a thousand years later we have George Washington and Thomas Jefferson serving the iced dessert to their guests. And during that same period of time, the first ice cream parlor opened in America.
The iced confections were labeled “iced cream.” This was quickly was shortened to ice cream. In 1832, a confectioner from Philadelphia created a number of new ice cream recipes. This was followed by the invention of the hand cranked ice cream freezer, allowing people to make and serve the iced treat whenever they desired.
Cadot, a French company, began producing ice cream molds in 1832. This was a two-piece hinged apparatus made of pewter. The ice cream could be spooned into both sides of the mold. The mold was then closed and both sides were pressed firmly together. The heavy pewter kept the cold inside. This kept the ice cream firm and in the shape of the mold. When the mold was opened, the ice cream would be placed on a plate in such a manner that the design was exposed adding a visual delight as well as one for the taste buds.
In 1897 Alfred Cralle of the United States was issued a patent on an ice cream mold.
The molds were produced in a variety of shapes including animals, fruit, flowers and holiday figures and symbols. As more holidays and events were celebrated, the list grew longer. Political and romantic themes were not overlooked. George Washington’s likeness was often used. There are countless numbers of human figures as well as other miscellaneous subjects, like cornucopias, baskets, ships and bells.
As celebrations became more commercialized, companies developed various molds to represent new themes and expanded on older ones. To keep up with the demand for ice cream molds there were a number of companies in England, France and Germany filling that need.
Around the turn of the 20th century, several prominent American companies were making their own pewter molds. One was Eppelsheimer Mold Manufacturing Co., which was located in New York City. They created molds of every theme and design imaginable, and were celebrated for their wonderful detail. Each piece displayed their signature E & Co, NY, which was stamped on one side of the mold. The catalog number was also stamped on each piece. E & Co. molds were equipped with soldered hinges.
Schall & Co., another American enterprise made similar molds, also with the soldered hinge. Their pieces were identified with S & Co. And as with Eppelsheimer, their molds are marked with catalog numbers.
Later Schall & Co. became Krauss. Krauss employed molded hinges, which were thought to be superior to the soldered type employed by other companies. V. Clad & Sons of Philadelphia was another U.S. company producing ice cream molds.
Ice cream molds were intended to afford individual servings. And they had a definite Victorian flavor, and were employed by restaurateurs, dairies and caterers in order to treat their patrons with a delectable dessert.
Those wanting to impress guests in their homes used the molds to create distinctive confections; those creations graced the tables at dinner parties and soirees, and also were served at picnics, birthday parties, as well as on holidays and other days of celebration.
As with most collectibles, condition has a definite effect on value. Because pewter is somewhat soft and malleable it is prone to suffer small dents and dings over the years. The molds might show other signs of wear, such as cracks. A common area where damage is often discovered is in the area of the hinge.
Ice cream molds are offered for sale on eBay. Recent sales included a pewter mold in the shape of a banana marked E & Co NY and offered at $50. A mold shaped like a flower bouquet also sold for around $50.
At a recent auction in Canton, Conn., five pewter ice cream molds were offered. The Santa Claus, rooster, and teddy bear also had a family of three and a heart. Offered as one lot, the unmarked molds in great condntion sold for $190.
Age-old ice cream mold manufacturers’ catalogs are also a great addition to a collection. They are highly collectible and offer important information on the molds and are a great tool in identifying them. The letters and numbers on each of the molds help determine if they are original and verify the manufacturer. They can be somewhat expensive, but reprints of the original catalogs are available for around $10 each.
Pewter ice cream molds are of interest to several types of collectors. Antique pewter alone is of great interest to many. With molds covering countless subjects and themes, there are unlimited opportunities for collectors. Those collecting political or historical items would find a mold of George Washington or the American eagle of interest. Others with a particular interest in specific animals, such as rabbits, cats, or roosters can add to their collections among those many molds. The holiday themes, including Christmas, Easter and St Valentines Day are a definite draw. There are also those whose interests lean towards a specific manufacturer of the ice cream molds, maybe Krauss or Cadot.
Today collectors urge buyers to just display their molds rather than use them. There may be traces of lead in the early molds.
• Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla: A History of American Ice Cream, by Anne Cooper Funderburg 1995
• Everybody Loves Ice Cream, by Shannon Jackson Arnold 2004
• 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles, by Linda Campbell Franklin
• The History of Ice Cream Molds; raysicecream.com