Ice Cream Exhibit Is a Cool Addition to Cape May This Summer

Cape May MAC's latest exhibit reveals ice cream's connection to the Victorian era–and New Jersey.

Ice cream exhibit at Cape May MAC
Cape May MAC's ice cream exhibit will run through early November at the Emlen Physick Estate. Photo: Susan Krysiak/Cape May MAC

Visitors to Cape May this summer can learn about New Jersey’s role in the fascinating history of everyone’s favorite summer treat at an exhibit at the Emlen Physick Estate, We All Scream for Ice Cream, sponsored by Cape May MAC (Museums + Arts + Culture).

Some form of ice cream has been around since antiquity, but many innovations in the making of the sweet treat took place during Victorian times in the South Jersey area.

Bassetts Ice Cream, the oldest ice cream maker in the United States, began making ice cream with mule power in Salem, NJ in 1861 (Bassett’s moved to Philly’s Reading Terminal Market in 1892, where they still scoop today.)

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But ice cream has come a long way from Victorian times, when only the wealthy could afford it, and it came in flavors like oyster and green tomato.

Along with learning fun facts, you can view antique packaging, ice cream molds and photographs at the exhibit, which is free and open daily through November 3 in the Physick estate’s Carriage House.

While at the estate, you can get more Victorian history by taking a guided tour of the 18-room mansion, which is considered one of the best examples of Victorian Stick style architecture in the country. Admission for the tour is $20 for adults; $15 for kids.

Sadly, samples aren’t available at the exhibit, but if visiting leaves you in the mood for a cold treat, head to one of the Shore’s most iconic ice cream shops; several are located in Cape May.

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