Posted by: Didapper PJ16 JUN 2011
I have written in the past about the US pharmacists who invented fizzy drinks such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, initially produced for sale through their drug store soda fountains (PJ, 13 September 2008, p310). I have since learnt that it was also a pharmacist who created the ice cream sundae.
The inventor was one Chester Platt, proprietor of Platt & Colt’s Drug Store in Ithaca, New York State. According to a letter written many years later by his soda fountain clerk, Mr Platt created the dish on Sunday 3 April 1892 for his friend the Reverend John M. Scott.
The minister was in the habit of visiting the pharmacy for a Sunday chat with Mr Platt, who was church treasurer. On that particular Sunday, Mr Platt asked for two bowls of vanilla ice cream, but instead of serving it plain the fountain clerk topped it with cherry syrup and a candied cherry. The minister declared the dish delicious and suggested naming it after the day on which it was created. Thus the cherry Sunday came into being.
Three days later, the Ithaca Daily Journal carried a notice that read: “Cherry Sunday. A new 10 cent Ice Cream Speciality, Served only at Platt & Colt’s Famous day and night Soda Fountain.” And on 11 April, the newspaper described the new dish as “ice-cream served in a champagne glass with cherry juice syrup and candied French cherries on top”.
A letter survives from a Washington patent attorney showing that the firm made an unsuccessful bid to trademark the word Sunday for its ice cream concoctions. The change of spelling to sundae may have been an attempt to find a name that could be registered. Or perhaps the change was made out of deference to people’s feelings about the use of the word Sunday for commercial purposes.
Several other US communities also claim to have invented the sundae, but only Ithaca seems to have good documentary evidence to support its case.
Whatever its origins, the sundae has remained a popular dessert for well over a century.