1.415-523-2090 IceCream@SanFranciscoIceCreamTours.com
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Who Really Invented the Ice Cream Sundae? Solving America’s Sweetest Mystery!

Who Really Invented the Ice Cream Sundae? Solving America's Sweetest Mystery!

The Strange History Behind The Ice Cream Sundae

Oh boy, gather ’round ice cream lovers, because do I have a tale for you! You see, the Ice Cream Sundae has a past wrapped in more mystery than a detective novel. For a dessert so delightful, the origins are, well, quite disputed.

It All Starts with Blue Laws

But before we dive into these juicy stories, let’s talk about Blue Laws. These are laws designed to restrict or ban activities on Sundays for religious reasons. One such law in the 1800s prevented the sale of soda on Sundays. This led soda shops to get creative. And voila! The Ice Cream Sundae was born. Or so it seems.

Many Claim to be the Creator of the Ice Cream Sundae

Wisconsin Historical Marker detailing Two Rivers as the locale of the invention of the ice cream sundae - Central Park, Two Rivers, WI
Wisconsin Historical Marker detailing Two Rivers as the locale of the invention of the ice cream sundae – Central Park, Two Rivers, WI

Origin Story Number One: Two Rivers, Wisconsin

  • The Tale: In 1881, a dude named George Hallauer asked Edward C. Berners, owner of Berner’s Soda Fountain, to drizzle chocolate syrup on his ice cream. Berners was skeptical but did it anyway. The treat was a hit!
  • Why Sunday: It was initially sold only on Sundays for a nickel. This led to the name “Ice Cream Sunday,” later changed to “Sundae.”
  • Fun Fact: Today, you can still order a sundae at the Washington House Museum, a replica of Berner’s shop. Their most popular topping? Homemade rhubarb sauce. Who knew?

Origin Story Number Two: New York (Buffalo and Ithaca)

  • The Tale: Two cities, two versions. In Buffalo, it was Stoddart Bros. Drug Store that first sold ice cream sodas with fruit syrup and whipped cream in 1889. In Ithaca, it was Chester Platt and his drugstore buddy John M. Scott who came up with a cherry-flavored version in 1892.
  • Why Sunday: Platt & Scott named their invention the “Cherry Sunday” because it was created on a Sunday.
  • Fun Fact: An actual advertisement from Platt & Colt’s drugstore has helped document Ithaca’s claim. Talk about keeping receipts!

Origin Story Number Three: Evanston, Illinois

  • The Tale: In 1890, Evanston became one of the first cities to enforce a Blue Law that stopped the sale of sodas on Sundays. However, the sale of ice cream wasn’t prohibited. Shop owners got creative and started selling ice cream with syrups sans soda.
  • Why Sunday: The dish was first dubbed “Sunday Soda” and eventually morphed into “Sundae.”
  • Fun Fact: Residents of Evanston are often credited with changing the name from “Sunday” to “Sundae” to make it a treat that could be enjoyed any day of the week.

Two Rivers vs. Ithaca: A Feud for the Ages

This gets juicy! Two Rivers and Ithaca have been duking it out for years. In 2006, Two Rivers even passed a resolution formally challenging Ithaca’s claim. They basically said, “Quit saying you made it first, or else!” Drama, right?

How Did the Name Go from “Sunday” to “Sundae?”

While we don’t have a definite answer, one thing is for sure: it’s spelled “Sundae,” not “Sunday.” Some say the spelling change was to make it a daily treat, others say it was to avoid offending religious folks.

    • Fun Fact: The name change debate is a hot topic in Evanston, Illinois. Many residents think they are the ones who switched it up.
A fountain style glass filled with an ice cream sundae with a straw and a cherry on top.
Ice Cream Sundae

What is an Ice Cream Sundae, Anyway?

Let’s not forget what unites us—a love for this delicious dessert. The Ice Cream Sundae consists of one or more scoops of ice cream, drenched in some kind of sauce (like chocolate, caramel, or fruit), sprinkled with various toppings, and crowned with whipped cream. Sounds heavenly, right?

Celebrate National Ice Cream Sundae Day

Oh, and mark your calendars—July 25 is National Ice Cream Sundae Day in the U.S. Yeah, it’s a made-up holiday, but who needs an excuse to enjoy an ice cream sundae?

Final Thoughts: The Sundae Saga Continues

Even after a century-plus, the sundae’s origin remains a mystery wrapped in whipped cream and a cherry on top. What’s your favorite sundae, and where do you think it was truly born? Whoever first created this iconic dessert, thank you from the bottom of our bowls.

So go ahead, dig in and enjoy your next sundae while pondering its rich history. 🍨



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