Alfred L. Cralle died in a car accident nearly 100 years ago, but his invention continues to provide an essential part of your summer experience.

Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scoop.
Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scoop and received his patent in 1897. Creative Commons

July 15 is National Ice Cream Day, and while you’re feverishly shoveling spoonfuls of your favorite flavor into your mouth, it’s Cralle you can thank for those picture perfect scoops.

While working as a porter in Markell Brothers drugstore and St. Charles Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa, Cralle noticed that ice cream stuck to the spoons and ladles the servers used, and they usually had to use two hands to separate them.

Cralle responded to this ice cream crisis by creating the ice cream scoop — originally called the Ice Cream Mold and Disher. It was designed to be strong, inexpensive and easy to operate with one hand. It had no moving parts that could break or malfunction.

On February 2, 1897, thirty-year-old Cralle applied for and received the patent #576,395. He was the first African-American in Pittsburgh to receive a patent.

Cralle's patent for the ice cream scoop.
Cralle’s patent for the ice cream scoop. The National Inventor's Hall of Fame

“The mold or dishes will fill and dish out from 40 to 50 dishes of ice cream in a minute,” reported The Pittsburgh Press on Feb. 14, 1897. “It also does away with the soiling of the hands.”

Cralle never became famous for his invention. The one-handed quick-release mechanical device spread so widely and so quickly that people soon forgot where it came from. Thus, he never profited from his invention.

Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scoop.
Alfred L. Cralle invented the ice cream scoop. Creative Commons

But he did become a successful Pittsburgh business promoter. Cralle was named assistant manager when the Afro-American Financial, Accumulating, Merchandise and Business Association in Pittsburgh was organized.

Originally from Kenbridge, Virginia, (born 1866) Cralle worked with his father in the carpentry trade, developing an interest in mechanics, before he was sent to attend Wayland Seminary in Washington, DC. He then settled in Pittsburgh, married and had three children.

Cralle was killed in an automobile accident in 1920, but his ingenious invention from the summer of 1897 is still used in serving ice cream today.


(Thanks to the National Inventors Hall of Fame)

make ice cream at home without an ice cream maker:


  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Place a 13×9-inch baking dish in the freezer until frosty and cold.
  2. In a large bowl, add all ingredients. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to baking dish.
  3. Freeze for about 20-30 minutes or until edges of cream mixture begin to set. Use a hand mixer to beat until smooth.
  4. Cover and freeze about 3 hours or until firm, beating every 30 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately or store in sealed container in the freezer.

Also see, Try this star-spangled ice cream sandwich trick.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.