The Good Humor ice cream bar was invented one cold January night in 1920 by a Youngstown, Ohio family named Burt.
Harry Burt, Sr., ran an ice cream parlor, one of the most popular spots in town, and on this night, he was assisted by his 21 year-old son, Harry, Jr. and his 23-year old daughter Ruth.
Between customers, he told Ruth, who was seated at the cash register, about an ice cream novelty he was making.
Burt had perfected a smooth, chocolate coating to cover a small block of vanilla ice cream. "It makes for a perfect blend with the ice cream in your mouth," he said.
Ruth tried one and said it was delicious but too messy to handle, wiping the chocolate from her fingers.
Then, Harry, Jr. spotted some lollipops on the counter. "Why don't we put sticks in the ice cream bars just like we do with the lollipops?" he suggested.
So, father and son put the wooden sticks into softened ice cream bars, took them to the hardening room and waited for the results.
About 2 AM, they found that the sticks were bounded to the ice cream. The bond was formed by tiny ice crystals and needed about 60 pounds of weight to be dislodged.
Packing the bars in a gallon container of ice and salt, they went to the home of a notary public. Awakened from a sound sleep, the man helped them make out an affidavit stating that the Burts had invented a new product.
The Burts sent the patent applications to Washingon, D.C., a few days later, but it was not until 1923 that officials finally approved them.
Before the patents came through, however, the Burts had established a very successful Good Humor business in Youngstown. At first, the first ice cream novelty was sold in the store, but Harry, Sr. soon decided it needed a special merchandising technique. He originated the refrigerated white uniforms so familiar to ice cream lovers today. The bells which announced the truck's presence in the neighborhood came from his son's bobsled.
However, the ice cream street vending business was not without it's problems. Dry ice wasn't available in those days, so each truck carried 700 lbs. of ice and salt. On excessively hot days, a Good Humor might fall from its stick into a customer's lap.
In 1926, a hurricane in Miami, FL almost destroyed the Good Humor fleet which Harry Jr. had established the year before. Burying the trucks under tons of sand. Yet, the Burt employees went to work and within 30 days, had dug out the fleet and put it in working order.
When Harry Burt Sr. died, the Good Humor patent rights were purchased by a group of Cleveland, Ohio, businessmen who formed the Good Humor Corp. of America. They sold franchises for a down payment of $100.
Tom Brimer, a 26 yr-old from Tennessee, bought a franchise in Detroit and was so encouraged by mushrooming sales that he started another branch in mobster-controlled Chicago.
Before long, gangsters were demanding $5,000 protection money, but Tom Brimer ignored them and took out extra insurance. A few days later, eight Good Humor trucks were blown to pieces. Front-page stories about the incident whetted Chicagoans' appetites for Good Humors.
In the fall of 1929, when the stock market crashed and many investors lost their fortunes, the Chicago Good Humor operation was paying sturdy dividends.
Michael J. Meehan, a Wall Street financier who had invested $25,000 into Brimer's Chicago operation without knowing what it was, authorized him to buy 75 percent of all Good Humor rights. This included operations in New York, Chicago, Phildelphia, and Pittsburg.
The Brimer family retained ownership of the Washington and Baltimore Good Humor companies. Harry Burt, Jr. had a small Good Humor sales branch in Oklahoma, and Paul Hawkins, a former insurance man, owend the Southern California franchise.
The Good Humor companies were merged when Lipton bought all of the operations in 1961.
Through the years, Good Humor sales people have brought the company a great deal of valuable publicity. Each year, pictures of them and their white trucks surrounded by children appear in northern newspapers with such captions as, "Harbinger of Spring."
Some Good Humor employees have become heroes by rescuing people from burning buildings or rushing accident victims to hospitals.
Several Good Humor people helped to break up a gang of counterfeiters on Long Island by watching for phony bills.
Good Humor has been featured in countless magazines, films and Broadway shows. In the early 1950's, it was the subject of a hit movie, "The Good Humor Man" starring Jack Carson.
Today, Good Humor is the world's largest street vendor of ice cream. Good Humor sales people slowly cruise through city and suburban streets from March to October in nine states — Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Illinois, MIchigan, Maryland and Virginia — as well as the District of Colombia.
The Good Humor bar has enjoyed a great deal of popularity since the Burt family invented it in 1920. In many parts of the Northeast and Midwest, an afternoon at the pool, a parade or picnic in the park would not seem quite the same without Good Humor.