The first frozen dessert is credited to Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar of Rome. It was a mixture of snow and ice (which he sent his slaves into the mountains to retrieve) and nectar, fruit and honey.
Marco Polo, the 13th century adventurer, brought a recipe from the Far East for a frozen dessert including milk, probably resembling today's sherbets. Apparently the treat had been used in Asia for thousands of years.
Ice cream or frozen desserts moved from Italy to France in the 16th century when Catherine de Medicis of Italy married the man who was to become Henry 11 of France. The retinue of cooks and chefs she brought with her introduced ices and sherbet to the French court.
England was not far behind and Charles I of England offered his chef a yearly salary to keep secret his recipe for "crème ice".
The technique of making a custard based ice cream using egg yolks, started in France around the mid-18th century. Today we still call vanilla ice cream with added egg yolk French Vanilla Ice Cream.
Ice cream arrived in North America in the 18th century, was apparently enjoyed by George Washington and was served at the White House by Dolly Madison, wife of President James Madison in 1812.
Up to this point ice cream was only for royalty and in high places, but an enterprising American woman, Nancy Johnson, invented the first ice cream machine. It was a wooden bucket filled with ice and salt to freeze the ice cream and a hand crank to churn air into the mixture at the same time.
The first commercial ice cream plant was established in Baltimore in 1851 by a milk dealer named Jacob Fussell who found that ice cream was more profitable than milk so he converted his entire milk plant to ice cream.