119th Anniversary of the First Documented Ice Cream Sundae

 On Sunday, April 3, 1892 in Ithaca, John M. Scott, a Unitarian Church minister, and Chester Platt, co-owner of Platt & Colt Pharmacy, created the first historically documented sundae.  Platt covered dishes of ice cream with cherry syrup and candied cherries on a whim.  The men named the dish “Cherry Sunday” in honor of the day it was created.

 The oldest-known written evidence of a sundae is Platt & Colt’s newspaper ad for a “Cherry Sunday” placed in the Ithaca Daily Journal on April 5, 1892. By May, 1892, the Platt & Colt soda fountain also served “Strawberry Sundays,” and later, “Chocolate Sundays.” Platt & Colt’s “Sundays” grew so popular that by 1894, Chester Platt attempted to trademark the term ice cream

 Wisconsin Historical Marker detailing Two Rivers as the locale of the invention of the ice cream sundae – Central Park, Two Rivers, WI.  Two Rivers’ claim is based on the story of George Hallauer asking Edward C. Berners, the owner of Berners’ Soda Fountain, to drizzle chocolate syrup over ice cream in 1881.  Berners eventually did and wound up selling the treat for a nickel, originally only on Sundays, but later every day.  According to this story, the spelling changed when a glass salesman ordered canoe-shaped dishes.

 When Berners died in 1939, the Chicago Tribune headlined his obituary “Man Who Made First Ice Cream Sundae Is Dead.” Two Ithaca High School students, however, claim that Berners would have only been 16 or 17 in 1881 and it is therefore “improbable” that he would have owned an ice cream shop in that year. They also state that the obituary dates Berners’ first sundae to 1899 rather than 1881.   

The origin of the term sundae is obscure, however, it is generally accepted that the spelling “sundae” derives from the word Sunday or, according to one source, a druggist named Mr. Sonntag created the dish.  He named it the “sonntag” after himself, and Sonntag means Sunday in German.  According to another theory, the spelling was changed to sundae to avoid offending religious conventions.  Other origin stories for the sundae focus on the novelty or inventiveness of the treat or the name of the originator.

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