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  • Katerine Chung Chen

HOW SWEET IS LIFE?: The Story of the First Documented Ice Cream Sundae

Take a second and imagine yourself eating two scoop of ice cream with melted caramel and chocolate, with a brownie on the side and whip cream on top. And of course, don’t forget the cherry. Imagine having every single spoon of ice cream melting inside your mouth. Think about tasting the sweetness of the brownie merge together with the whip cream. Did that make you feel hungry? I bet that most of you had eaten an ice cream sundae at least once in your life. But let me tell you that the background story of this delicious treat might surprise you. Several cities claim to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, among them, there’s Two Rivers, Wisconsin and Ithaca, New York.


Two Rivers, Wisconsin, located 40 miles southeast of Green Bay, on the shores of Lake Michigan. On a summer Sunday in 1881, soda fountain owner of Ed Berners’ Ice Cream Parlor, Ed Berners, accidentally poured the chocolate syrup on top of ice cream. Back then, the chocolate syrup was only used for making flavored ice cream sodas. Ed Berners sampled the dish and liked it. Ever since, he put this dish in the menu and called it “ice cream with syrup”. He even decoded to sell it for the same price as the regular ice cream. This ice cream concoction only cost a nickel but it was only sold on Sundays. Little by little people started loving this new dish and that’s how it started becoming so popular.

Another city that claims the origin of this delicious dessert is Ithaca—a crunchy college town in upstate New York. Officials in Ithaca claim that on Sunday, April 3, 1892, the Reverend John Scott dropped by the Platt & Colt Pharmacy after service, he ordered a bowl of ice cream with the shop’s owner, Chester Platt. Instead of the usual unadorned scoops of vanilla, Platt decided to add cherry syrup and a candied cherry to each serving of ice cream. Platt named his creation the “Cherry Sunday” in honor of the day and his most holy company. Realizing he had a hit on his hands, he advertised the dish in the local newspaper, and soon after introduced a chocolate and a strawberry Sundae. He eventually changed the name of his dish to “sundae” to avoid offending the good reverend and the church.

With the lack of evidence, folks from Ithaca believe that they are the only and one creators of the delicious sundaes. Several years ago, a pair of intrepid local high schoolers rooted around in the town and found a newspaper article about the 1892 newspaper with an advertisement about Platt’s Sundays, a letter from the shop’s clerk, and a store ledger proving Platt had all the ingredients necessary. Does that means they win? Well, no, they argued, “Just because they lack hard evidence doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”. Each has bought an ad in the other’s newspaper stating its case. Officials have written letters back and forth over the years. Both towns’ websites tell their side while also taking shots at the other. Two Rivers even issued a cease-and-desist order to Ithaca regarding their sundae story.

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