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Tell All Thursday: Alfred L. Cralle, the Black Inventor of the Ice Cream Scoop
The most critical tool for all scoop shops is the ICE CREAM SCOOP, which was invented by Alfred L. Cralle, a black businessman and inventor.
Born just after the end of the American Civil War, he worked for his father as a carpenter where he first became interested in mechanics. He studied in Washington D.C at Wayland Seminary, a branch of the National Theological Institute, whose mission was to help educate newly freed African Americans.
Cralle later moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and while working as a porter at a drugstore and hotel, was inspired to invent the ice cream scoop. While observing ice cream servers, he noticed that the ice cream tended to stick, requiring the use of both hands and multiple spoons and ladles to serve customers.
Using his ingenuity, creativity and mechanical know-how, Cralle created a mechanical device which he called the Ice Cream Mold and Disher to make serving ice cream faster and easier. It was a scoop with a built in scraper to allow for one-handed operation. He subsequently applied for and received U.S Patent #576395 becoming the first African-American in Pittsburg to receive a patent. He was also one of the first black inventors in America to be awarded a patent without having a white partner.
Unfortunately Cralle never became famous from his invention, nor did he profit from his invention. The one-handed ice cream scoop spread so widely and quickly that people soon forgot where it had come from.
Cralle continued to become a well-known businessman and civil rights leader. And his invention the Ice Cream Mold and Disher, is still widely used in all scoop shops today.