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The History of Ice Cream Sundaes

In honor of National Sundae Day, we are exploring the history behind this classic treat. Two cities claim to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae: Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Ithaca, New York. The Two Rivers version of the story claims that the first ice cream sundae was served by accident in 1881. The owner and proprietor of Ed Berners’ Ice Cream Parlor, Edward Berners, was asked for an ice cream soda by a customer named George Hallauer. Since it was a Sunday (and therefore the Christian Sabbath), Mr. Berners was hesitant to fulfill Hallauer’s request (serving ice cream soda on Sundays was considered taboo as it offended the sensibilities of the devoutly religious). So Berners compromised by putting ice cream in a dish and pouring chocolate syrup on top (chocolate syrup was then only used for making flavored ice cream sodas), thus creating the ice cream sundae. The Ithaca version of the story claims that the first ice cream sundae was invented on April 3, 1892. After services at the Unitarian Church, Reverend John M. Scott went to the Platt & Colt Pharmacy to visit the proprietor, Chester C. Platt. Platt asked his fountain clerk, DeForest Christiance, for two bowls of ice cream. But instead of serving the reverend the prepared bowls, Platt topped each with cherry syrup and a candied cherry. The two men enjoyed the new creation so much that they named it a “Cherry Sunday.” Interestingly, Ithaca has extensive documentation supporting their claim as the birthplace of the first ice cream “Sunday.” However, the two towns still continue to fight over who has the right to call themselves the true birthplace of the ice cream sundae. To complicate things even further, a third town – Evanston, Illinois – claims to have originated the name “ice cream sundae” in the late 1800s. While ice cream sundaes have quite the complicated history, it’s not hard to see why people are so passionate about them – they’re a delicious and beloved treat!

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