ice cream socials became popular in late-nineteenth-century America as a result of the temperance movement, technology, and fundraising. Seeking sober alternatives to socializing, and employing ever-cheaper mechanical ice cream makers plus advances in commercial ice harvesting and storage, churches, synagogues, lodges, youth and other social clubs sponsored events based on selling ice cream to provide ongoing financial support for their organizations.
Offering usually a limited menu of flavors, and cake or pie to accompany the ice cream, the groups sold and served plates of ice cream to customers who, in summer, often sat at tables outdoors in imitation of popular commercial ice cream gardens, or in church fellowship or social halls converted for the event to ice cream parlors. The social might be timed to coincide with a community celebration or anniversary, with a holiday like the Fourth of July, or with a food festival such as those celebrating strawberries or blueberries. The social might also include music and games, with prizes for winners.