The History of Labor Day and Ice Cream Sandwiches

ice cream sandwich recipe

Labor Day is almost here and that means only one thing: No Work! (Unless you work at Wal-Mart and/or the Emergency Room, then you probably do have to work and in that case, thanks for still letting us purchase your wares and stitching our heads back together after we all fall onto barbecue forks.)

But let us not run headlong into the Potluck Madness without first stopping to consider what Labor Day means.

Labor Day got started because way back in the 1800s, people (Americans even!) had to work in sweaty, dirty factories for hundreds of hours at a time and only got cold biscuits and hot water for lunch, and had no safety equipment like socks and shoes, and finally some of them got ticked off. They worked for this jerk named Pullman and he had them making all these railroad cars and stuff but, well, have you ever seen that cartoon about Scrooge McDuck? The real rich duck who’s also a jerk? Well, this Pullman character was a lot like that and when his workers complained that they didn’t have enough money to buy bread and stuff, he basically was like, “Let them eat cake”, and then he went back into his giant Ivory soap tower that he lived in.

Well, you can imagine that that teed them off even more so they went on strike! Then all their buddies that drove the trains went on strike, too, for solidarity and stuff. So, it would seem like the strike was going pretty well, right?! WRONG!

Remember when there was all those riots that happened in American history? Like, well, there has been a bunch. The biggest ones I can think of were like the Stamp Act Riots, and the Boston Masssacre, Quiet Riot, and the Zoot Suit Riots. So, the same thing happened at the railroad and some people got a little crazy and started some fires and ended up they burned up some buildings and made it so none of the trains could run.

The problem was that at that time, the American Government was real into delivering mail promptly. I guess President Cleveland didn’t want to get a bad rep for letting the US Postal Service go down the tubes. So he telegraphed the army and was like, “Hey, guys, there’s some people interfering with the mail, vis-a-vis the railroad system and I need you to check it out.”

Well, they checked it out alright.

With their guns.

And shit got way out of control and a bunch of people got killed and a bunch more got wounded. But the strike was over. And President Cleveland clapped his hands together and was all, “Welp, my work here is done. Mailmen, carry on.” But then when he looked around, everyone was giving him evil looks, like they were really mad at him for some reason. So then he was like, “Oh! How could I be so obtuse?! Sorry about all the crazy shooting and stuff, how about we make this a holiday from now on?” And that was the first Labor Day.

Now that you have some history, how about making miniature ice cream sandwiches in honor of the first Labor Day?


Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Homemade chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich recipe


  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter (= 2 sticks = 1/2 pound), softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or strong coffee
  • 1 pint ice cream (I used coffee ice cream)


  1. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light.
  3. Add the melted chocolate, eggs, and vanilla and combine well.
  4. Add the dry ingredients a half-cup at a time until incorporated.
  5. Divide the dough in half and roll each half out to 1/4″ thickness between sheets of waxed paper. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Remove one piece of dough and take off the top sheet of waxed paper. Replace it with a sheet of parchment paper that is cut to fit your baking sheet. Flip the paper-dough-paper sandwich over onto your cookie sheet so that the parchment is on the bottom now. Remove the waxed paper on top.
  8. Cut out some small circles, as many as you can get. I used the screw-top lid of a small bottle of club soda. Yours don’t have to be so small, though. Any round cutter will do.
  9. Pull the excess dough away leaving just the shapes on the paper. You can re-roll and refrigerate the extra dough.
  10. Bake for 8 minutes.
  11. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  12. Cool the cookies on a rack until completely cool and firm.
  13. Soften the ice cream by leaving it on the counter for 10-15 minutes.
  14. Scoop balls of ice cream out onto half of the cookies. A melon baller was the perfect size for my cookies. Rinse the scoop in a bowl of very hot water between each dip to make prettier balls. Put the tops onto each sandwich and lightly squeeze them together.
  15. Put these in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to firm up.


Your yield is dependent on the size of your cookie cutter. With a 1″ round cutter, I got about 18 sandwiches (36 cookies).

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Ta-Da! Now that you have a whole bunch of mini ice cream sandwiches at your disposal, you can take them with you to a friend’s party and be like Ol’ Pullman and give everyone only one tiny ice cream sandwich and keep the rest of them for yourself and start a riot in your friend’s back yard.

Just kidding.

Don’t do that.



  1. Andrew on August 31, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Best history lesson EVAR!

    • Hilah on August 31, 2011 at 8:46 am

      It’s the things they DON’T teach you in school that make history interesting!

  2. Great Stone Face on August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am

    True, Grover Cleveland latched onto to the Labor Day idea in 1894 to keep peace after the Pullman strike, but the first Labor Day had taken place in 1882, sponsored by the Central Labor Union of New York. Hilah Cooking fans will be happy to know that that very first Labor Day was celebrated with a parade, a band, a picnic, an abundance of cigars, and (of course) “Lager beer kegs… mounted in every conceivable place.”

    • Hilah on September 2, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Ah, the days of beer kegs and cigars courtesy of the US Government. Too bad I wasn’t around for that party.

  3. Laurel on August 31, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I think you need to make Whoopie Pies. They look a lot like these sandwiches! I am not sure if you’re aware of this, but the Whoopie Pie is native to Maine, as am I. I love them, and I think you will too. I miss you and wish you were on vacation with me!

    • Kathryn on August 31, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      I second your suggestion for a whoopie pie post from Hilah. Maybe she could make them for some obscure holiday, like Whoopie Day, and give us another history lesson, too! 🙂

      • Great Stone Face on August 31, 2011 at 10:16 pm

        Patriot’s Day (3rd Monday in April)

      • Hilah on September 2, 2011 at 9:43 am

        So it is written, so it shall be done. I am on the hunt for recipes.

    • Hilah on September 2, 2011 at 9:38 am

      Oh Laurel! I shall do that for you! I wish I was New Englanding it up with you, too, and our puppies!!!

  4. Laurel on September 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Your favorite Mainer’s birthday?

    • Hilah on September 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

      As you wish…

  5. Randy on September 5, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Thanks for the history lesson! It’s interesting to ponder Labor Day vs. May Day and how, despite similar origins focused on the working class, Labor Day has lost its plebeian roots, while May Day hasn’t.

    • Hilah on September 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm

      You know, I need to research this May Day thing. It is not something we ever celebrated when I was growing up. As I understand it, there is a pole and some ribbon but beyond that, I’m clueless.

      • Randy on September 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

        Oh, wow! Hilah, you have just called back an image from my brain that is totally disconnected from any source or context. I have the vaguest picture of kids dancing around May poles. All I recall is that I have absolutely no first hand experience of it. I thought at first that it must have came from watching an Our Gang short, but a little research made me realize that I was confusing it with another holiday most Americans no longer celebrate: Arbor Day.

        Unfortunately, I was in Twitter mode when I posted my original comment. It should have read “Labor Day in the US…May Day in the rest of the Western world”. My point was that, in the US, Labor Day means a busier than usual work day for those in low-paying service jobs, while in places like Mexico, EVERYTHING is closed on May Day. May Day actually dates back to ancient celebrations and first got appropriated by Christianity and then later by communists, socialist and anarchists as International Workers Day (it’s a national holiday on May 1 in many countries). According to Wikipedia, May Day in its pre-Twentieth Century manner of celebration (May poles and all) is still going strong in the UK.

        • Hilah on September 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

          I want to have a May Pole! We should do a May Day episode…

          • Great Stone Face on September 8, 2011 at 9:54 am

            Just don’t make this cake.

          • Hilah on September 8, 2011 at 10:02 am

            Ugh. Don’t worry. No chance of me making anything that Sandra Lee might like.

  6. Great Stone Face on September 5, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Serendipity = Finding out the first Waffle House opened up on Labor Day (1955).

  7. Anna on August 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    love your icecream pic..i want to eat the screen!! xoxo

    • Hilah on September 3, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks Anna! xoxo

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