BY JIM MERCIER
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” was a popular song back in the late ‘20s, and who doesn’t like ice cream? And, as many of you may remember from a previous “Made In Racine” article, Racine made some great ice cream back in the day. Companies such as Progressive Dairy, Racine Pure Milk Company and Billy’s Ice Cream all manufactured this delectable and mouthwatering product that most of us just can’t seem to get enough of.
Ok, let’s take it one step further…what if you could make you OWN ice cream in the comfort of your home? Well, enter the INSTANTFREESE, which promised to make delicious frozen desserts in 30 seconds! For the “do-it-yourselfer” and the ice cream lover, this was certainly a dream-come-true! So, do I have your interest, all you ice cream lovers? If so, please read on!
The INSTANTFREESE was manufactured by the Instant Freezer Corporation right here in Racine. It was actually just a marketing name for the Stover Signal Engineering Co., a maker of automobile signals and other automobile accessories. They were located in the old Terminal Building, which was located just south of the Main Street bridge, on the eastside of Main Street. Many of you may remember this building as the former John Oster Manufacturing Co., or in later years, the Lathrop Furniture warehouse.
This six-story landmark was demolished back in 1991. Although Stover Engineering was located here since the early ‘20s, the INSTANTFREESE made its debut in 1927, after applying for patents that same year. So, what made this new-fangled ice cream maker so interesting and desirable? Well, according to their brochure, “INSTANTFREESE makes smooth, consistent, delicious frozen desserts in less than 30 seconds! Just a turn of the handle, and you have an attractive, tasty ice cream, sherbet or ice. No fussy preparation, no trouble, slight expense, and variety to suit every occasion and every taste.” Based on that, I’m sure I’d buy one!
I know what you’re thinking…how can you make ice cream in less than 30 seconds? Well, their recipe book explains it this way…”One naturally thinks of the old method of freezing liquids inside of a cylinder. This method of freezing required a length of time to freeze in direct proportion to the diameter of the cylinder, since the freezing started at the walls of the cylinder and gradually worked toward the center. With INSTANTFREESE, the process is reversed. Instead of the ice and salt being on the outside and the mixture in the inside of the cylinder, the ice and salt are placed inside the cylinder. As the liquid is taken up by the revolutions of the cylinder, it freezes almost instantaneously.” So, did you get all that?
Their instruction/recipe booklet even breaks down the classes of frozen desserts, which included ICE CREAM (a mixture of milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring), SHERBET (a mixture of fruit juices, water, sugar and egg whites), and ICE (fruit juices, water, sugar, and lemon juice). FRAPPE is an ice frozen only to a “mush” consistency (amazing all this new-found knowledge that you get by reading this magazine every month).
A recipe booklet was included with each machine, and some of them are quite interesting! Besides the standard vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry ice cream, one could even make French ice cream, or even orange, peach, or cherry ice cream.
INSTANTFREESE was manufactured here from 1927 until 1930, when Stover Signal Engineering moved their operations to Milwaukee. So, one can only wonder if the INSTANTFREESE had been more successful in its short production history in Racine, could it have put the Belle City “on the map”, much like Horlick’s, Hamilton Beach, Case, and S C Johnson did? While you’re thinking, go enjoy some delicious ice cream!
Local historian Jim Mercier is an avid collector of Racine historical memorabilia. Some of his collection is in the Racine Business Center’s Spirit of Racine Entrepreneur’s exhibit.