Ithaca's Gift to the World
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 propos ed that it be named after the day on which it was invented: Cherry Sunday!
While Ithaca is widely accepted as the birthplace of the Sundae, a few would disagree. Two Rivers, Wisconsin, cites Edward C. Berners, owner of a local ice cream parlor, as originator of the Sundae, and the nearby town of Manitowoc claims George Giffey as their own local hero. Hometown legend in Buffalo, New York, traces back to Stoddard Brothers, the first drugstore to install a soda fountain in Buffalo, selling ice cream sodas for a nickel -- that is, until the day the store ran out of soda water. Uncle Charley Stoddard needed to dream up a new dish in a hurry, so he instructed his clerks to serve ice cream drenched with fruit syrup. Norfolk, Virginia, holds dear to its own unverifiable claim. A city ordinance not only prohibited the consumption of alcohol, but legislated against the growing "Sunday Soda Menace." To circumvent the blue law, it is purported that a local fountain owner added a few berries, fruit syrup and ice cream to an ice cream soda glass, but held off on the fizzy water. The merchant would not be denied. With a snip of legal subterfuge, his “dry” soda became a Sundae. The story in Plainfield, Illinois, is that a druggist by the name of Sonntag dressed dishes of ice cream with syrup, and since "Sonntag" translates to "Sunday" in German, he should get the credit.
Stories have been told many times, in many places, and with varying degrees of believability. A few of the places continue spinning their tales today, and the Sundae flapdoodle may never be settled. What is known for sure is that Ithaca, New York, has the earliest documentation to substantiate its claim as the birthplace of the great American dessert -- an advertisement placed by Chester Platt in the Ithaca Daily Journal on April 5, 1892.