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Facial Hair Friday: No ice cream for old men

Gen. Albion P. Howe, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865 (111-B-4713; ARC 528831)

Did you know that in 1984, President Reagan declared July 15 as “National Ice Cream Day” and July to be the official “National Ice Cream Month”?

In his proclamation, the President declared that “Ice cream is a nutritious and wholesome food, enjoyed by over ninety percent of the people in the United States.”

Ice-cream-on-a-stick production took off in the 1920s with the invention of the Popsicle and ice cream bar.

But what took so long for this delicious dessert to catch on? After all, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to have eaten and served ice cream.

But I think the real reason that ice cream didn’t take off until the turn of the 20th century was not lack of electricity or mass-produced dairy product. No, it was a much simpler reason: facial hair.

To support the argument that facial hair fashion was more powerful than a delicious ice cream sundae, I present these Civil War generals: Albion P. Howe and George Sykes.

Gen. George Sykes, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865 (111-B-5581; ARC 529678)

Their fulsome whiskers would have turned licking a cone into a challenging and messy task. Who would want to awkwardly eat in front of their enlisted men, risking the shame of getting ice cream all over one’s beard?

So, if you are at the beach or boardwalk, enjoying an ice cream, be grateful that you are not required to grow a Civil War–style beard to be taken seriously.

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