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Behold The Ice Cream Cone: Invention Of Necessity

Behold the ice cream cone: invention of necessity.  The Great Debate over who invented the ice cream cone still rages on. The expensive treat finally became affordable to the masses thanks to Nancy Johnson’s patent.

Ice cream was sold by vendors on streets across Europe and the United States.  But it wasn’t long before a new way to eat ice cream became a necessity.  The number of people racing to claim credit for the first ice cream cone looked like a gold rush.

Penny Licks Create A Necessity

Penny licks were sold in small glasses for – you guessed it – a penny. Customers licked the confection straight from the cup.  But the glass made the scoop inside appear to be larger than it was. Angry customers often broke or stole the glasses.

The glasses also raised serious hygiene issues. There was no feasible way to wash cups between customers. They were linked to the spread of diseases including tuberculosis. Eventually penny licks were banned in England in 1899.

The Ice Cream Cone Has Many “Fathers”

Enter: several ice cream entrepreneurs with their patented “edible containers.”

– Italo Marchiony had 40 pushcart vendors on the streets of New York. In 1896, he patented a machine to make edible ice cream containers.

– In 1902 Amtoio Valvona obtained his patent for a machine that made edible, flat-bottomed, biscuit-style cups for ice cream.

– The 1904 World’s Fair proved that necessity is the mother of invention.

Ice Cream Cones At The World’s Fair, 1904

Many historians believe that the birth of the ice cream cone occurred at the Centennial of the Louisiana Land Purchase from the French: the 1904 Worlds Fair in Saint Louis. According to records, more than 50 vendors sold ice cream at that fair. There were also more than a dozen waffle stands.

Historian Anne Funderburg has collected seven legends around the invention of the ice cream cone — all with men at the center.

According to the most popular “legend”, ice cream vendor Arnold Fornachou ran out of paper dishes to serve up his ice cream. Lucky for him, his stand was next to that of Ernest Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant selling zalabia, a waffle-style pastry. When Hamwi rolled his unsold zalabia for Fornachou to serve his product, the ice cream cone was born.

After the fair, the business deals and trademark issues got as messy as a scoop of melted ice cream. Hamwi partnered with J.P. Heckle to develop the Cornucopia Waffle Company. He travelled across the United States pitching his new way of eating ice cream.

Meanwhile, in 1910, Hamwi started the Missouri Cone Company. He called his invention the ice cream cone. Hamwi filed for a patent for a pasty cone-making machine in 1920.

Agnes B. Marshall Beat Them To It

In truth, all of these “fathers of the ice cream cone” were beaten to it by Mrs. Agnes B. Marshall. She published the first ice cream cone recipe in 1888 in her “Mrs. A. B. Marshall’s Book Of Cookery.: Her cornet with cream was made from almonds and baked in an oven.

Agnes B. Marshall was the Martha Stewart of the Victorian Era. She was a celebrity cook who published numerous books including The Book Of Ices in 1885, which won her the title of “Queen of Ices.”

Marshall also ran a domestic staff agency business, a cooking school and sold a line of domestic cooking equipment. In 1886, she started the “The Table,” a successful cooking magazine. She frequently lectured to large audiences. Marshall patented her own ice cream machine that could freeze a pint of the confection in five minutes.

Marshall died at 49, shortly after she fell from a horse. Her business did not do well without her at its heart.

Did Someone Beat Agnes Marshall To It?

It’s possible that Marshall’s ice cream cone recipe was not the first.  In the delightful essay, An 1807 Ice Cream Cone: Discovery and Evidence,  Robert J. Weir presents a persuasive argument.

Consider Louis Philibert Debucourt’s colored engraving, Frascati, published in 1807. Frascati was a popular garden café/restaurant and gambling house in Paris. It opened in 1789 on the Rue Richelieu. Frascati, a highly successful gathering place, was mentioned inWilliam Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.

If you look closely at the lower right hand corner of the engraving, you can see a young woman sitting at a table, licking what appears to be an ice cream cone! Is this a matter of time travel? Or are we missing some historical links in the development of the ice cream cone–one of our favorite inventions of the Industrial Revolution.

We have to wonder, did Elizabeth Bisland and Nellie Bly sneak a few trips to the ice cream cart on the streets of New York?

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