The long tradition of New York City’s ice cream man

Today we have Mister Softee parked all day at playgrounds. In the 1970s, a man with an Italian Ice cart waited beside school bus stops offering small white cups of cherry, raspberry, or lemon for 10 cents. In the midcentury city, the Good Humor truck made the rounds of New York neighborhoods.

And in 1885, the ice cream man was a peddler with a wagon that looked as rundown as the streets he visited. “A summer scene in the streets of New York” the caption reads.

Almost 140 years have passed since the image was published, and the enthusiastic response from city kids after spotting an ice cream vendor hasn’t changed one bit.

[Image: NYPL Digital Collection]

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11 Responses to “The long tradition of New York City’s ice cream man”

  1. VirginiaLB Says:

    Great illustration and who knew the ice cream man was such a long tradition? I have happy memories of the ice cream man in my childhood Brooklyn neighborhood. We had two–the Good Humor man and an independent truck owned by Rocky. For whatever reason, we all loved Rocky–he was great with kids–and I’m afraid the Good Humor man didn’t do much business in our neighborhood.

    • Susan Case Says:

      I fondly remember Rocky from my Flatbush childhood in the 50’s. All the kids adored him. He would sometimes have giveaways like little plastic dinosaurs. Once my little brother won a huge stuffed monkey! I have the same recollection about the Good Humor truck not being as popular.

  2. VirginiaLB Says:

    Your post inspired me to Google ‘Rocky the ice cream man Brooklyn NY’ and amazingly his obit popped up. I didn’t even know his last name. He retired to NJ and died, age 90, in 2010. 5 kids. I also found a photo of him in his ice cream man’s uniform. Rocco Vitale. Thanks so much for such great memories.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Wow, how wonderful that he was identified that way in his obit—he sounds like a neighborhood treasure.

  3. Rob Says:

    I’m 69 years old & I still get a twinge of excitement when I hear what may be an ice cream truck in the area!

  4. Lady G. Says:

    I miss the bells and the delicious treats. The Good Humor man loved to stop on our block right in front of our house and knew us by name. We would give him fresh water or lemonade, etc. Mr. Softee would sometimes come down our block too but he never stopped even when we shouted, waved money and tried to chase him down. Sometimes you wanted a soft serve. His loss.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      For me it’s the Italian Ice guy at my school bus stop on LaGuardia Place. He got a lot of business when school let out!

  5. tommy bkly,n Says:

    in flatbush we had good humor & rocky, all had bells .loved the carmel cup, stopped @ newkirk & 25th street

  6. Kevin Says:

    Everyone remembers the Good Humor man….but does anyone remember ‘Bungalow Bar’? It was another ice cream man that came around sometimes.

    • Rob Says:

      I don’t think I ever saw a Good Humor Man… All I recall is a local guy but this way Hawaii in the early 60s

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