Background

Today, the ice cream cone is a standard in any ice cream store or stand. This tasty treat is known as a way to cool down in the summer and makes an edible container for a cold snack. The frosty smoothness of the ice cream complements the crispy crunch of the cone for an interesting taste combination. There are almost as many stories of how the ice cream cone was invented as there are flavors that it holds.

History

   The ice cream cone would seem to be a simple and unpolitical a treat, yet it’s origin is hotly contested. The most

favored folk tale regarding the invention of the ice cream cone takes place at the 1904 World’s Fair held in St. Louis,

Missouri. Two food vendors had stalls next to each other. Arnold Fornachou made and sold ice cream. His neighbor,

Ernest A. Hamwi, had come to the United States from Damascus, Syria. Hamwi made sweet wafers (much like today’s

wafer-like cookies) that Syrians call “zalabias.” Hamwi cooked the wafers on a waffle iron heated over a coal fire,

coated them with sugar, and rolled the wafers while they were still hot so they were easy to eat and carry. When

Fornachou ran out of dishes to hold his ice cream, Hamwi rolled his wafers into a cone shape instead of a tube, and

the gentlemen topped the wafer with scoops of Fornachou’s ice cream. Zalabias became “World’s Fair Cornucopias,”

and the cone concept was born.

 

                With over 50 ice cream vendors at the Fair, Hamwi was soon doing a land-office business. He started his own

cone company after the Fair called the Cornucopia Waffle Oven Company, but tired of business and went to work for

the competition, Heckle’s Cornucopia Waffle Oven Company in St. Louis. The cornucopia or waffle name was replaced

with the word cone in 1906. Meanwhile, Hamwi promoted cones at fairs all across the United States. Returning to his

own business in 1910, Hamwi started the Missouri Cone Company of St. Louis. He died in 1943 after amassing a

fortune founded on ice cream cones.

 

          A second contender, David Avayou also claims to be the cone’s creator. Avayou owned an ice cream parlor in

New Jersey where he made both ice cream and cones. He took his wares to the St. Louis World’s Fair and claims to

have been selling them there when Fornachou and Hamwi stumbled on their joint product.

 

Still a third contestant is Abe Doumar, another immigrant who had moved with his family of 12 brothers and sisters

from Lebanon to St. Louis. Doumar’s favorite treat from his homeland was a pita bread rolled into a cone shape and

filled with fruity jam. He approached another of the Fair’s zalabia-makers and suggested applying the same concept

by rolling a waffle and filling it with ice cream. Doumar later developed a variety of waffle machines, moved to New

York, and sold ice cream cones at Coney Island. By the 1930s, Doumar owned a number of restaurants along the East

Coast; the new trend for “fast food” that grew with the popularity of the automobile almost drove him out of business

until he got the idea to make waffle cones in the front windows of his restaurants. The baking process and the girls in

the windows rolling cooked waffles into cones became attractions that saved the restaurants.

 

           Opposing these charming stories is a solid fact. In 1903 (the year before the World’s Fair), Italo Marchiony was

awarded a patent for the “pastry comet,” which he developed to hold his frosty wares. Marchiony was an Italian

immigrant who lived in New York City. His product was lemon ice that he scooped onto small glasses and sold to

customers along Wall Street. After consuming the ice, the customer returned the glass, and it was washed and used

again. Breakage and the continual task of washing dishes frustrated Marchiony; he substituted paper cones, but these

(and littering consumers) made a messy problem. As early as 1896, Marchiony invented a fully consumable

alternative. By 1903, he had made a machine that created cones like the sugar cone known today. The machine

resembled a long waffle iron with spaces to cook 10 cones. Later, Marchiony opened a cone factory in Hoboken, New

Jersey. He is also credited with building the first ice cream sandwich with two waffle squares.

 

         Apart from his patent from the United States government as proof, Marchiony has history and sentiment on his

side. His business of selling lemon ice in glass scoops is part of a tradition in Italy dating back to the early 1800s. The

Penny-Ice Men became common across Europe from about 1820 to 1860, as revolution and economic hard times

drove immigration. Part of this wave consisted of Italians who left their homeland for Europe’s major cities. They

pushed carts through the streets beginning as early as 7 A.M. during the summers and sold flavored ice seated on

tiny glass goblets. A goblet cost a penny, the people consumed the ice, and the goblet was returned to the vendor. In

Italy, the Penny-Ice Men cried, “Ecco un poco, che un poco” (Here’s a little for so little [money]), and this cry became

distorted by non-Italians into the word hokeypokey. In New York and other American cities—where the custom had

migrated by the mid-1800s—the Penny-Ice Men were known as Hokeypokey Men. Their trade and their use of the

tiny glass goblets are a direct link to the development of the ice cream cone.

 

              After the World’s Fair, cone-making machines were regularly sold in catalogs for $8.50. Individual vendors

could afford these, so the street vending of ice cream now accompanied by cones grew enormously. In 1912,

Frederick Bruckman devised a machine that rolled the cones hot from the waffle iron automatically; 245 million ice

cream cones were sold in 1924 alone. 

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