It was the invention of the ice cream machine that made it possible to turn out brickettes for tuppence and tubs for fourpence, and long before the age of the motorised truck, vendors were playing their trade wherever there were tourists.
The first machines consisted of little more than wooden buckets filled with ice and salt, and a rotating handle to mix them. Not long afterwards, electric and gas refrigeration made it possible to store the ice cream for more than a few hours, without using vast amounts of ice.
A Swiss entrepreneur named Carlo Gatti is credited with making the product universally available in Britain. Having settled in the Italian quarter of Holborn, London, he opened a waffle and chestnut cafe and then an ice cream stall in Hungerford Market, dispensing “penny licks” – first in unhygienically reusable glasses and later in sugar cones that were ideal for eating on the go.
The first mobile vendors, like the one in the picture (right) used tricycles to literally peddle their wares, and in the interwar years, Wall’s could boast a fleet of 50, which were stored in a single garage. In the three years between 1924-7, sales went from around £13,000 to close to half a million, and the company later doubled the capacity of its dairy in Acton by constructing a purpose-built ice cream factory in Gloucester.
It was one of their employees, Cecil Rodd, who was credited with having devised the slogan, Stop Me and Buy One.
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