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In which US state was it once illegal to serve ice cream on cherry pie?

Ice cream and pie are two beloved American desserts that have long histories in the United States. While it may seem surprising, there was a time when it was actually illegal to serve one of them together – ice cream on top of cherry pie – in one particular state. This unusual food law reflected broader tensions and attitudes in America at the time regarding regulation, tradition, and even morality. Exploring the history behind this ban on ice cream and cherry pie gives insight into a unique period in American legal and culinary history.

The Ban on Ice Cream and Cherry Pie

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the state of Kansas banned serving ice cream on top of cherry pie. This prohibition was part of a list of food service regulations passed by the Kansas legislature in the late 1800s. The exact law stated:

“Ice cream is not to be served on cherry pie.”

While this law was eventually repealed, it reflected genuine legislative intent at the time. Lawmakers in Kansas felt that the combination of ice cream and cherry pie was unsuitable. It was seen as an unnatural and excessive indulgence. This food regulation was part of a broader public policy agenda coming out of the Progressive Era that favored government intervention and high morals.

Reasons for the Ban

Why exactly did Kansas lawmakers feel the need to outlaw ice cream on cherry pie? Examining the context provides some explanations.

Health Concerns

One reason was health concerns. In the late 1800s, food safety was a major issue. Publications like Upton Sinclair’s famous novel “The Jungle” exposed unsanitary practices in meatpacking plants and caused outrage. Lawmakers were under public pressure to regulate the food industry.

Serving ice cream on hot cherry pie may have raised concerns about food contamination and spoilage. Keeping ice cream frozen and preventing it from melting was difficult without modern refrigeration. The melted ice cream could cause the pie filling underneath to spoil. Some legislators likely worried that this combination could lead to illness.


The ban also had moral and religious overtones. The late 19th century was a time of public decadence, but also temperance movements urging moderation and self-restraint. Eating rich desserts was seen as an indulgence bordering on sinful. Combining ice cream and pie may have been viewed as gluttonous behavior that should be outlawed.

In particular, some legislators seem to have viewed ice cream as a dangerous vice that could lead to immorality. According to accounts at the time, ice cream was even referred to as “the vice cream” by critics. Banning it on pie guarded against overindulgence.


Finally, the ban reflected xenophobic attitudes toward immigrants at the time. Ice cream was still seen as an exotic foreign import in the late 1800s. It was brought to America by immigrants, who became known for running ice cream parlors.

Meanwhile, cherry pie was an established American tradition tracing back to the colonial era. Combining these two foods may have been viewed by nativists as unpatriotic behavior that corrupted traditions. The ice cream and cherry pie ban was likely aimed at newer immigrants and their curious foods and customs.

Repeal of the Ban

While it reflected genuine attitudes at the time, the Kansas ban on ice cream and cherry pie did not last long:

  • 1885 – Ban passed as part of broader Kansas food service regulations
  • 1901 – Regulation overturned by legislators who saw it as unnecessary government overreach

The ban was repealed in 1901 by a new generation of lawmakers. Public attitudes had changed, and the earlier moral panic over ice cream had died down. Americans embraced ice cream as a new national treat. With modern refrigeration, health concerns about spoilage diminished as well. The combination of ice cream and cherry pie became commonplace and uncontroversial.

Impact and Legacy

While short-lived, the Kansas ban on ice cream and cherry pie represents a fascinating episode in American history. Some key impacts and legacies include:

Public Health

The food safety concerns behind the ban were somewhat valid at the time. It contributed to later legislation such as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 that improved public health through food regulation.

Immigration and Diversity

The xenophobia behind the ban ultimately yielded to the assimilation of diverse immigrant groups into American culture. New treats like ice cream became staples over time.

Government Regulation

It stands as an early example of government overreach and moral regulation that was later rejected in favor of personal liberties. However, it also showed public interest in food safety policies.

Kansas Identity

Odd historical food regulations like this helped establish Kansas’s reputation as a conservative, traditional farming state suspicious of new influences.

While mostly forgotten today, the ban reflected Kansas’s values and attitudes during a unique period of history. It shows how food is often intertwined with deeper social issues of the day. Next time you enjoy an ice cream sundae on cherry pie, you can be glad you were not around during Kansas’s brief ban on that tasty combination!


In the late 19th and early 20th century, the state of Kansas passed an unusual law banning the serving of ice cream on top of cherry pie. This prohibition reflected broader concerns at the time around food safety, morality, and xenophobia aimed at new immigrants. While the law did not last long, it stands as an intriguing example of government overreach and how attitudes about food can reflect deeper social tensions. So next time you enjoy the classic pairing of ice cream and cherry pie, you can feel relieved that lawmakers eventually came to their senses and recognized no one should come between you and that delicious dessert!