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Ice Cream at Mount Vernon Lesson

In this module you will be answering the Compelling Question by exploring three Supporting Questions and analyzing primary and secondary sources. By the end of the module you will be able complete a Summative Task and Take Informed Action.

To begin, read the Compelling Question and introduction below. Then watch the video “How to Make 18th Century Ice Cream.” When you have finished, select the NEXT button.

Compelling Question:

Why was ice cream an exclusive treat at Mount Vernon long ago?


The Washingtons were part of the upper class in the new United States of America. They hosted guests year round because of their position in society and wealth. Much of their wealth came from the land. It also came from the number of enslaved people they owned. The enslaved people would work on the land without pay or rights. They raised crops and animals for the Washingtons' needs. These needs included food and drink for entertaining. 

In the summertime, the Washingtons gave ice cream to their guests. This cold dish was an exclusive treat. It took a lot of work to prepare and serve. The first reference to ice cream at Mount Vernon dates back to May of 1784. The inventory of Mount Vernon, completed shortly after George Washington’s death in 1799, lists two pewter ice cream pots and eight tin ice cream pots. The large number of ice cream pots suggests that ice cream was a treat served often at Mount Vernon.


How To Make 18th Century Ice Cream

Join our Historic Trades manager to see how ice cream was made in the 18th century.

Watch the video