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We Scream for Ice Cream: An Industry Guide

Ice cream has a history as one of America's favorite sweet treats. This guide provides resources for researching the ice cream industry in the United States. While the focus is ice cream, some sources dive deeper into the U.S. dairy industry.


Ice cream has been a popular dessert in the United States since the early days of our country’s founding. Thomas Jefferson had his own personal recipe for vanilla ice cream and James and Dolley Madison often served ice cream at the White House for their guests. While the origin of ice cream goes back even further and evolved in different corners of the globe, this guide focuses on the ins and outs of the ice cream industry in the United States. From an exotic dessert at the tables of the Founding Fathers, to the invention of the first hand-cranked ice cream freezer, to the emergence of the classic American soda fountain shop, to the creation of popular novelties such as the ice cream sandwich, to the boom of the Vegan and non-dairy ice cream industry today, there is a great deal of information to discover about the ice cream industry.

Fisher, Alan. ["Soda jerk" passing ice cream soda between two soda fountains]. 1936. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Before you begin any research endeavor, you should ask yourself why you are researching the topic at hand and determine what your goal(s) are. Do you want to learn about opening an independent ice cream salon or small business? Perhaps you are looking to become a franchisee for a larger company and want to find out more about the industry you are breaking into. Maybe you are curious to learn more about an ever-changing industry for a school or work assignment, or just for fun. Or, do you love ice cream and want to uncover some of the most interesting facets of its history, business, and evolution? This guide can provide reference and resources to answer these and other questions you might have about the ice cream industry.

Each industry is different and thus, before you begin, it can be helpful to know how you can go about your research. Researching the ice cream industry in the United States can be broken down into three general categories: 1) the history of the ice cream industry and related businesses and companies, 2) business and economic information, trends, statistics, and impact, and 3) relevant science and technology development and advancements. Within this guide, the resources are categorized into these three broad groupings to some degree, to help facilitate your research. Additionally, you will find information in this guide about small business, the restaurant business, and the dairy industry more generally.

When researching the ice cream industry, it is important to note that the most recent market research and up-to-date statistics will mainly have to be accessed online, most often in a subscription database or via a fee-based service. Furthermore, articles and news stories can be good places to explore industry themes and trends while scholarly publications can prove fruitful for some industry and economic analysis. This guide includes a variety of Library of Congress and external resources, both online and in print, freely available and subscription-based. For additional guidance, Ask a Librarian.

About the Business Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Business Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.