In celebration of Labor Day 2023, we are posting pictures of the Turnbull Ice Cream Cone Company which operated in Davenport for a short time in the 1920s and 1930s.
Francis W. Turnbull opened the factory in early January 1925. Mr. Turnbull had come from Chattanooga, Tennessee where he learned the ice cream cone-making trade from his father, Werd W. Turnbull. W. W. Turnbull started his ice cream cone factory in 1907 and invented the machines to create these delicious treats he sold throughout the southern part of the United States.
His father encouraged Francis Turnbull to start his own independent ice cream cone factory that was separate from his father’s business. The same year the younger Mr. Turnbull opened his factory in Davenport, his father sold his company to the National Biscuit Company and included all his patents and equipment. There was an agreement that W. W. Turnbull would not operate an ice cream cone factory for seven years so as not to compete with the National Biscuit Company. By starting his own factory, Francis Turnbull was not part of the sale or agreement to stop working in the ice cream cone field.
The Turnbull Ice Cream Cone Company opened at 2116-2118 E. 11th Street in Davenport and moved about 1928 to 1302-1304 W. 4th Street where the factory pictures were taken.
When he opened, Francis Turnbull estimated he would produce about 12 million ice cream cones in his factory to be distributed throughout the Midwest. He planned to operate 24 hours a day for the first year with six employees.
The ice cream cone factory was successful so it may have come as a surprise in January 1932 when newspaper notices appeared listing the factory equipment up for a Sheriff’s sale that was to be held on February 8, 1932.
The seven-year agreement W. W. Turnbull had made with the National Biscuit Company to not compete had come to an end by 1932. Francis left Davenport and his factory behind to rejoin his father in creating a new Turnbull Cone Baking Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With newly designed equipment, the father and son expanded not only throughout the United States but internationally as well.
The Turnbull Cone Baking Company was sold by the fourth generation of the Turnbull family in 2002 and became part of the Bake-Line Group LLC (formerly Atlantic Baking Company). When it was sold, the company was one of the top four producers of ice cream cones in the United States.
In his later years, Francis Turnbull moved to Louisiana where he opened the Turnbull Bakeries in New Orleans that are still in operation. In 1957, Mr. Turnbull created the first Melba Toast machine which the business is still associated with today. Francis W. Turnbull died in November 1981.