PictureLuick Dairy Milk Can, Chudnow Museum
John Luick, a Civil War veteran, revolutionized the ice cream industry not just in Milwaukee, but throughout the world.  He was born in New York, and except for his two years of service in Virginia, lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Luick “saw the rise of ice cream from a Sunday luxury to an everyday dessert.”[i]  This rise was brought on largely by Luick himself.  

In the 1880’s, Luick was already making delectable ice cream in his small confectionary shop in Milwaukee.  It was his son William’s idea to sell wholesale ice cream, an idea that his father did not readily buy into.  William rented a failing drugstore soda machine on Milwaukee Street between Wisconsin and Wells.  William also purchased a small shop and started to make 10 to 20 gallons of ice cream a day.  At this time, ice cream had to be hand-turned in a small freezer.  A drugstore on 27th and Wisconsin Avenue was William’s first customer.[ii]  Because of his son William’s success in making and selling wholesale ice cream, John was convinced of the business potential.  

“The Dairy Industry is the biggest in the world.  It is bigger than the steel industry.” Thomas McInnerney 1926 to the Milwaukee Sentinel 
PictureLuick Dairy Advertising Truck
In 1897 he formed “Luick’s Ice Cream Co.”  The company grew so big in its first 90 days that the business was moved into a larger building at 602 East Ogden Street.  Copying his son’s idea, he also installed a soda fountain which turned his building into one of the most popular in the city.[iii]  Another of his brilliant ideas was to serve ice cream in the winter, which helped to spread its popularity.   

Luick made a number of important contributions to the Ice Cream Industry.  He was the first person to sell pint “bricks” of ice cream wrapped in paper and quarts of ice cream in cartons.  He created flavors of ice cream other than the traditional Neapolitan flavors of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  Luick mixed his ice cream with fruit and candy to increase his flavor potentials.  Luick’s business was so revolutionary that confectioners from across the country came to observe his business.  Eventually, John retired and left his business to his son William.

PictureRecreated Luick Ice Cream logo
At the end of 1923, a man named Thomas McInnerney formed the National Dairy Products Corporation with the goal of consolidating all of the independent ice cream companies in the US.  McInnerney was highly successful and merged with Luick Ice Cream Co. in 1926.  Luick Ice Cream Co. was largely left to create ice cream the way it always did.  A newspaper at the time reported, “Mr. Luick [William] will remain president of his company and its organization, methods and product will remain unchanged.”[iv]  William was even appointed to the board of directors of the National Dairy Products Corporation.[v]

PictureMilk Half Pint with Luick & Sealtest Cap
Around 1929, Luick Ice Cream became part of the Sealtest division of the National Dairy Products Corporation, which would eventually become Kraft Foods, Inc.[vi]  Sealtest and Kraft were companies that were purchased by the National Dairy Products Corporation to consolidate the food industry.  In 1969, the National Dairy Products Corporation changed their name to Kraft, which is one of the biggest food-producing companies today.  In 1993, Kraft sold its ice cream brands, including Sealtest (the brand that owned Luick Ice Cream) and Breyer’s to the Unilever Corporation, which owns them today.[vii]   

Nevertheless, Luick Ice Cream was a Milwaukee staple for decades, especially in the 1920’s.  This decade saw the standard of living rise along with wages.  Never before in history did the majority of the population have some sort of disposable income or leisure time.  These two things merged together at the soda fountain or ice cream parlor that Luick helped to popularize. 

[i] “Luick, Veteran of Civil War, Is Dead at 97” The Milwaukee Journal, March 30, 1938, Page 1.
[ii] “Everybody Likes Ice Cream” The Milwaukee Sentinel, January 29, 1952, Section 2.
[iii] Ibid 
[iv] “Chain Concern Booms State Milk Future” The Milwaukee Sentinel, September 3, 1926.
[v] “Trapp Dairy Co. Unites With Chain Organization” The Milwaukee Journal, December 16, 1927, Page 1.
[vi]“Luick Dairy Co. Horse and Wagon,” Milwaukee Public Library Digital Collections, accessed June 23, 2011, http://content.mpl.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/HstoricPho&CISOPTR=4111&CISOBOX=1&REC=1
[vii] “Breyers,” Unilever USA Brands, accessed June 23, 2011, http://www.unileverusa.com/brands/foodbrands/breyers/index.aspx


 


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