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I Scream, You Scream,
We All Scream, For Ice Cream
At one time long ago ice cream, a smooth, sweet, cold food prepared from a frozen mixture of milk products and flavorings, was usually available as a summertime treat at the confectionery store or the pharmacists’ soda fountain, and usually made in small quantities by the stores proprietor. In 1900 Burt M. Allen and Will Burns with only sixty dollars in their pockets, a borrowed horse and harness and an ambition to succeed, started a confectionery store and ice cream parlor at 501 East State Street under the name of Allen & Burns. Allen sold his interest in the business four years later in 1904 and the partnership was dissolved with Allen taking over the manufacturing end and became the sole owner and Mr. Burns assuming the retail portion of the business. Allen started a new venture, the wholesale manufacture of ice cream. He was frowned on by business friends who advised against an exclusive ice cream business, but he foresaw the development of ice cream as a food in winter as well as in summer.
Allen's Ice Cream Company
Mr. Allen started business in the basement of a building located at 111 South Water Street but with an ever increasing demand for his Allen Ice Cream he leased the entire building at 107 - 109 South Water Street. The building was two stories high with a large roomy basement, which he used for storage of new materials such as salt, etcetera. The first floor was used for manufacture and storage of the ice cream and also for shipping and office space. The second floor was utilized for a store room for confectionery supplies for which Mr. Allen was a wholesale agent.
One of the interesting features about the plant was the cold storage plant which had three rooms. The first is used to keep cream in at 32° above zero, the second room with a temperature of 8° above zero to store the ice cream after it is frozen. It had an 800 gallon capacity so they could keep a large stock on hand. The third room was used to store ice in. The storage plant was the only one of its kind in this part of the country including Chicago. It was a dry air system with pipes lining the inside walls which contained ammonia and was run on electricity. Here the business thrived under the management of Allen and his wife Carrie. Allen's wife was closely associated with the business for seventeen years. He coined the phrase, "Its A Food, Not A Fad".
The office of the Burt M. Allen Ice Cream Company at 107 - 109 South Water Street
One of the storage rooms at the Allen plant
With the success of the Allen Ice Cream Company it was not long before others wanted to become a part of the lucrative ice cream business. The first of these was the Crescent Ice Cream Company founded in 1909 by Frank O. Johnson and Ludwig Swanson. It started in a small plant at the rear of 416 East State Street, and the ice cream was delivered with a single horse and wagon. Johnson soon sold his half interest in the company to K. L. Swenson as Johnson and his wife were planning to move to Texas where they had purchased a farm. In 1920 Crescent would start using the Vitalized Carbonated Process of manufacturing ice cream; carbonated ice cream differed from ordinary ice cream in that instead of air entering the freezers, sterile carbon-dioxide gas, the same gas found in soft drinks enters the freezer during the freezing process. The company's claim was it was a much more sanitary and safe process than just using ordinary air, which might contain contaminants. Freezers were machines that processed and chilled the cream and milk, fruit and flavorings and air or carbon-dioxide that were introduced into the churning process where it would become ice cream. From here the ice cream would be placed in refrigerated freezers that froze the ice cream further to the state that we all recognize today. They sold this ice cream as Crescent Hygen Ice Cream.
Crescent Ice Cream Company
Spatz - Barrett Ice Cream Company
The Barrett name was known across the area for their "Barrett's Cream". J. H. and P. H. Barrett started their ice cream and confectionery business in 1885 and later on M. F. Barrett became a member of Barrett Brothers. A few years later Joseph H. Barrett severed his connections to the business. Until 1914 the confectionery and ice cream business was conducted as one but as ice cream gained acceptance as a year round food the ice cream end of the business grew. At that time Joseph C. Barrett, a son of P. H. Barrett, along with his wife took over the management of the ice cream factory and located at the back of 409 West State Street. By 1921 he felt the time was right to enlarge the business. They had a new two story brick building constructed for the manufacture of ice cream at 915-17 West State Street at the corner with Kilburn Avenue. The company was incorporated with Charles Spatz who for fifteen years prior sold ice cream in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. He would assume the President and General Manager position. J. C. Barrett was the vice president, Gus S. Brown secretary. They could produce 4000 gallons daily of Spatz - Barrett Ice Cream. Barrett would leave the firm and open a confectionery store in a new retail development on North Main Street in the North End near Auburn Street in Early 1922.
Oak Brand Ice Cream Company
The Oak Brand Ice Cream Company was located at the rear of 1123 Fourth Avenue and opened 0n May 13, 1922 founded by Alfred Wessman, manager of the Cherry Valley Creamery Company, the Freeport Dairy & Products Company and Russell A. Smith formerly with the Spatz-Barrett Ice Cream firm as supervisor.
In 1917 the firm was incorporated as a stock company with Burt M. Allen as president; Miss Clara Buske as vice president; George R. Courtright as secretary and treasurer. On July 9, 1917 Allen Ice Cream Company would buy the ice cream company run by Berton H. Thomas in Oregon, Illinois. In September 1917 construction began on a new home for the Allen Ice Cream Company at the northwest corner of Winnebago and Green Streets. The plant was opened in August of 1918; the building was 110 by 66 feet, three stories tall and with a basement. At the rear of the plant was a loading dock that could accommodate nine trucks at one time. The freezing and mixing rooms were finished in white enamel with white tile floors for sanitation purposes. Five modern freezers were installed with a capacity of 350 gallons an hour. Storage rooms were built for storage of a large amount of sugar, cold storage for 6,000 gallons of ice cream, 6,000 gallons of milk and cream and sixty barrels of crushed fruit. The plant also included an ice making plant capable of producing twenty tons of ice per day and a storage room that held 200 tons of ice. A 400 foot deep well was drilled that in the busy season produced 110 gallons of pure water per minute. The factory continued to make ice cream, ices and sherbets.
In its first year in the new location the firm set a record by selling 400,000 gallons of cream, half of that being due to the Camp Grant exchange contract obtained by Mr. Allen from the government. By the early 1920's the company employed thirty two men in the sales and marketing department beside a corps of wagon men and mechanics at work rebuilding and refinishing the big fleet of thirty trucks which carried Allen Ice Cream into two states and 125 towns or villages. One of his long time employees who handled out of town accounts, Charles Spatz was made sales manager for outside accounts.
In March of 1919 the company purchased the McConaghue Building on Cherry Street in Rochelle and refitted it with an artificial refrigeration plant capable of making 400 gallons of ice cream a day and doubled as a distribution plant. Burt M. Allen's brother Will Allen was put in charge of the location. Formerly they were located in the Clark Building on Second Avenue in Rochelle. On March 1, 1922 Allen Ice Cream Company sold its Rochelle ice cream plant to a DeKalb, Illinois ice cream company. Mr. Allen once stated while being interviewed by a local newspaper, “I have but two bits of advice to anyone desiring success in the ice cream or any other wholesale field, one is to work hard, stick to an idea until you are convinced yourself that it is either a success or failure and advertise. Most of my success has come from these two elements - hard work and advertising and I believe in doing plenty of both. Mrs. Allen has shared with me the development of this company and without her as a partner we would not be where we are today"
Famous Rockford aviator Bert Hassel was retained by Burt Allen for an advertising stunt in 1921 where Hassel would fly over the city and drop "bombs" that had coupons attached to them for a free quart of Allen's Ice Cream.
Christian K. Nelson, a schoolteacher and candy store owner, invented the Eskimo Pie in 1920 in Onawa, Iowa. After experimenting with different ways to adhere melted chocolate to bricks of ice cream, Nelson began selling his product under the name "I-Scream Bars." In 1921, he filed for a patent, and secured an agreement with local chocolate producer Russell C. Stover to mass- produce them under the new trade marked name "Eskimo Pie" (a name suggested by Mrs. Stover), and to create the Eskimo Pie Corporation. Nelson franchised the product, allowing ice cream manufacturers to produce them under that name. The patent, which applied to any type of frozen material covered with candy, was invalidated in 1929. Stover sold his share of the business. He then formed the well-known chocolate manufacturer Russell Stover Candies. Nelson became independently wealthy off the royalties from the sale of Eskimo Pies. Nelson then sold his share of the business to the United States Foil Company, which made the Eskimo Pie wrappers and retired. Eskimo Pies came on the Rockford market about 1922 and the four big ice cream companies started manufacturing them. The machine that produced the Eskimo Pie was invented by brothers Swan, Axel and Hugo Anderson and manufactured in Rockford by the Anderson Brothers Manufacturing Company located at 1917 Kishwaukee Street. The machine cut the ice cream bricks into small slabs, dipped them in a chocolate coating, lifted them up to a wrapping apparatus that wrapped them in foil, and placed the wrapped bar on a conveyor belt ready to be packed into chilled containers. From there they were either placed under freezing temps or shipped out to customers. The machine could make eighty dozen Eskimo Pies per hour.
On June 25, 1925 the Allen Ice Cream Company was sold to the Hydrox Company of Chicago, which was a subsidiary itself of the National Dairy Products Company of New York. By terms of the purchase the officers of the Allen Company, in turning over their business and stock holdings to the Hydrox Corporation, they bought back into the new corporation, incorporated for $250,000, thereby assuming a part control of the business. Mr. Allen himself retired from active duty and assumed an advisory role with the new company, the Hydrox-Allen Company. George R. Courtright formerly the vice president of the old firm became its president. All of the personnel employed at the plant were retained. While the manufacture of ice cream remained in Rockford new distribution plants consisting of warehouse and refrigeration units were built in Freeport, Beloit, Belvidere and Dixon. New equipment consisting of mixers, ice machines and other apparatus used in the manufacture of ice cream was installed in the plant on Winnebago Street. The new company also retained the Allen name and the slogan 'Its a Food, Not a Fad’ name.
On December 31, 1925 it was announced that the Hydrox Ice Cream Company would make its second purchase of a local ice cream company. On January 4, 1926 National Dairy Products Company, parent of the Hydrox Ice Cream Company purchased the Crescent Ice Cream Company from K. Y. Swenson, Olga Swenson and A. C. Swenson. The Crescent plant was closed and consolidated at the Allen Ice Cream manufacturing plant on South Winnebago Street.
Hydrox would purchase the business and part of the mechanical equipment of the Oak Brand Ice Cream Company on January 3, 1927 and consolidate the ice cream manufacturing to the Allen plant where ample facilities existed and it had an annual capacity of a half million gallons, and the Oak Brand plant was abandoned. Since Hydrox acquired the Allen and Crescent Ice Cream plants the Oak Brand plant was one of two independent ice cream manufacturers in the city. Under Alfred Wessman the company enjoyed a prosperous business. He would return to the Cherry Valley Dairy which his father owns at 1123 Fourth Avenue. The Freeport Dairy Company retained the Oak Brand name.
Spatz - Barrett was the only home-owned Rockford ice cream manufacturing plant left after the Hydrox acquisitions. The company would change its name to the Spatz Ice Cream Company in January 1928. Stock of the Spatz Ice Cream Company was purchased by Walter R. Meier and W. E. Lovell of Waukesha, Wisconsin on March 22, 1929. Meier who was president of the Meier Ice Cream Company of Waukesha remained in Rockford as president of this plant. Lovell took charge of the Wisconsin ice cream concern. They would name the company the Roxo Ice Cream Company. The Roxo concern installed new equipment, remodeled and modernized throughout the facility. The latest types of freezer machines were installed, including one that could turn out a continuous flow of frozen cream as fast as the raw mixture was fed into it. New and improved packing machinery was installed. Roxo also produced a line of imitation cakes, fruits and flowers at its plant, all made from ice cream. They purchased six wheel jumbo axle trucks painted white with yellow trim, equipped with dry ice refrigeration. The large Roxo circle on the side of the trucks easily identified the company as they made their rounds in the city.
The Roxo Ice Cream Company became heavily involved in the local community and sponsored a local baseball team, The Roxo Nine and in 1930 sponsored a show for children called the Roxo Playmate Hour on KFLV Radio, the fore- runner to WROK. On February 8, 1940 the name of the firm was changed from Roxo to Meier Dairy Company. The Meier Dairy was dissolved in 1947.
On September 14, 1928 Rockford was host city for an ice cream maker’s convention of the Illinois Association of Ice Cream Makers. The event was held at the Nelson Hotel where the fifty ice cream makers met to discuss the standardization of high quality ice cream products throughout the state. The aim was to make it easy to get a good dish of ice cream anywhere in the state. In the evening the meeting was followed by a banquet.
National Dairy Products Company
Allen Ice Cream had already gained the seal of approval from the Good Housekeeping laboratory when In 1935 National Dairy Products introduced its Sealtest line of ice cream named after a laboratory testing process they had been using in their ice cream plants. Allen Ice Cream Company started making Sealtest brand ice cream shortly thereafter as did many of the other National Dairy Products Company ice cream plants. The idea was to have a consistent brand name of ice cream across the country. The Allen Ice Cream company would continue to make Sealtest Ice Cream here for the next 39 years. The building that was home to Allen's Sealtest Ice Cream was sold to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company on July 19, 1956. The glass company would take possession of the building in January 1957 after moving from a building at 123 South Third Street. National Dairy Products Company was the result of a merger between the Hydrox Corporation of Chicago and the Rieck-McJunkin Dairy Company of Pittsburgh in 1923. During the 1920’s National Dairy continued to buy the stock of small dairy companies in the East and Midwest, including the Allen, Crescent and Oak Brand Ice Cream Companies in Rockford. On May 12, 1930 they acquired the Kraft-Phenix Company, a company that patented a pasteurized cheese that did not need refrigeration. Over the years Kraft would introduce many well-known brands such as Velveeta, Kraft Caramels, Barbeque Sauce, Cheeze Whiz and many more familiar products. The Sealtest Ice Cream Company would move into a newly built building at 4811 West State Road. By this time the majority of Sealtest ice cream was manufactured in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was made possible by means of modern refrigeration and storage plants and modern refrigerated trucks. The West State location was used for warehousing and distribution purposes.
In 1969 National Dairy Products would change its name to Kraftco and in 1976 to Kraft Incorporated. Sealtest would discontinue its Rockford facility in 1973 and sold the building in 1974. In September 1993 Kraft sold its ice cream brands - Sealtest and Breyers to Unilever. Sealtest Ice Cream is no longer produced.
An item that I have in my collection is this Allen Ice Cream Company "E-Z Cone Server", a cardboard tray that held up to five ice cream cones. Manufactured by the F. C. Traver Paper Company of Chicago in 1927.
D & W Ice Cream Company
In April 1930 the D & W Ice Cream Company moved into a new one story building located at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Sixth Street directly across the street from the Emmanuel Lutheran Church. The Elgin based firm operated entirely from Rockford and located their general offices and manufacturing plant here. M. E. Thompson was the manager of the plant. The plant was modern in every way with the latest types of ice cream manufacturing machinery. The D & W delivery trucks were equipped with the latest type of ammonia refrigeration and heavy insulation; this enabled the local firm to deliver its ice cream all over Northern Illinois within a 50 mile radius of Rockford. The company produced over twenty flavors of ice cream including the regular stand by and others such as English toffee, mint, marshmallow pineapple, orange pudding and chocolate chip.
Due to rapid growth Thompson purchased a building at 1105 Kilburn Avenue in March 1940 for use as a distributing plant and offices for the D & W Ice Cream Company. Brick veneer was applied to the building and new floors installed in the 40 x 103 foot building. The plant would move from 1002 Third Avenue in May of that year. The company remained at this location until 1958 when the plant closed. Bordon Foods would assume occupancy of the building as a distribution center for Borden Products. Bordon Foods would later relocate to 1445 Windsor Road.
Devon Ice Cream Company
The Devon Ice Cream Company was located at 1128 South Winnebago Street at the corner with Loomis. Starting out as the Sunlite Dairy at this location in November of 1936, the one story cream color brick building was designed by Rockford architects Bradley and Bradley
The former Devon Ice Cream Company Building as it appeared in 2015
Sometime in the early 1960's the Devon Ice Cream Company became a part of the Muller-Pinehurst family.
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