The Origins of the Ice Cream Sundae

One of the supposed inventors of the sundae was one Edward Berner, the owner of an ice cream parlor in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. As the story goes, on Sunday, July 8, 1881, a man named George Hallauer entered Berner’s establishment and asked for an ice cream soda. However, it was illegal at the time to sell soda water on the Sabbath, so Berner decided to put ice cream in a dish and top it with chocolate syrup. The concoction, which initially sold for a nickel, was named the Ice Cream Sunday and was not surprisingly available only on Sundays. However, it eventually became so popular Berner — and his competitors, who quickly jumped on the bandwagon — altered the name and began to offer it on every day of the week.

This version of the tale is recognized as official by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, who also created a monument to the event in Two Rivers Central Memorial Park back in 1973. However, the Official Website of the Ice Cream Sundae cites another, more likely candidate as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae — Ithaca, New York.

An article on the website entitled “Ithaca’s Gift to the World” states the following: “The year was 1892. Ithaca, New York, was dotted with local drug stores, where many a nickel was spent for a dish of ice cream. After Sunday services at the Unitarian Church, Reverend John M. Scott visited the Platt & Colt Pharmacy in downtown Ithaca, New York, for his usual dish of vanilla ice cream — but on one fateful day, history was altered forever. That day, instead of plain vanilla for the Reverend, Chester Platt dipped his scoop of ice cream into a champagne saucer, poured cherry syrup over the top, and dressed it with a candied cherry. As the two men pondered over what to call the delightful new concoction, Scott proposed that it be named after the day on which it was invented: Cherry Sunday!”

This version of the story is supported by Michael Turback, author of the book A Month of Sundaes. According to information obtained from , Turback points to two key pieces of evidence to support the claim: “First, the story was recounted to the Ithaca librarian and historian by… the clerk who actually witnessed the event as it happened. Second, Platt placed an advertisement in the local newspaper promoting his new creation. The advertisement said: ‘CHERRY SUNDAY – A new 10 cent Ice Cream Specialty. Served only at Platt & Colt’s. Famous day and night Soda fountain.'”

The city of Evanston, Illinois also claims to have played a role in the origin of the ice cream sundae. Evanston was one of the first locations to pass anti-soda water legislation, doing so in 1890.

According to an article written by former Tulsa Tribune editor Richard Lloyd Jones and referenced by Evanston Public Library website , “Some ingenious confectioners and drug store operators [in Evanston]… obeying the law, served ice cream with the syrup of your choice without the soda. Thereby complying with the law… This sodaless soda was the Sunday soda. It proved palatable and popular and orders for Sundays began to cross the counters on Mondays. Objections then was made to christening a dish after the Sabbath. So the spelling of ‘sunday’ was changed. It became an established dish and an established word.” While Evanston makes no claims today about being the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, the town does still insist that it was the place where the treat got its name.

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