43rd Street near Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19143
© John Mayer,
Workshop of the
World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).
The distinctive Breyers Ice
Cream neon-sign, visible from the Schuylkill Expressway
as one passes near the University of Pennsylvania,
locates the Philadelphia plant of this regional ice-cream
manufacturing company, built in 1924.
William A. Breyer began his ice cream making business from modest beginnings, using a small, hand-operated freezer for production and a wagon as the means of distribution. Breyer's commitment to quality ingredients and his "pledge of purity" made his ice cream a popular treat and by 1882, Breyers opened a retail store at 2776 Frankford Avenue that also included a small manufacturing area. 1
Between 1882 and 1923, Breyer's business expanded. Ice cream making facilities out-grew the Frankford Avenue store; in 1896, Breyer moved to a plant at 2103 Somerset Street. Shortly thereafter, in 1908, the company moved to a new location at 9th and Cumberland Streets. 2 Finally, in 1924, the existing facility was built. By 1931 Breyers employed over 500 workers in the factory that was considered "the largest modern" ice cream plant in the world, capable of producing 70,000 gallons of ice cream a day. 3
By 1946 the Breyers Company included a network of creameries, distribution facilities and three manufacturing plants, the Philadelphia plant plus Long Island and Brooklyn facilities.
Today the Breyers Ice Cream Company is part of the Philip Morris/Kraft General Foods, Frozen Products division, a major conglomerate of beer (Miller), tobacco (Philip Morris, etc.) and foods (Oscar Mayer, Kraft, etc.) companies.
1 Breyers Ice Cream Company, The American Way; A History of the Breyers Ice Cream Company, (Philadelphia, 1946).
2 Pennsylvania State Department of Labor and Industry, p. 879; see also, Pennsylvania State Department of Internal Affairs, Seventh Industrial Directory of Pennsylvania, (Harrisburg, 1931), p. 508.
3 Federal Writer's Project, p. 495.
Update May 2007 (by Joel Spivak):
"Turn On Your Love Light", Tamar Cherry, Citypaper, Nov. 23, 2005 - describes closing of the Breyers plant [Oct. 27, 2005] and questions prospects for the sign.
Breyers Ice Cream - corporate website