It’s on…”Sundae Feud” to Hit the Airwaves

“Did the ice cream sundae spring to life at Platt & Colts soda fountain in Ithaca, NY, or did it rise from the streets of Two Rivers, WI?”

While this posting has little to do with “family history” it does concern “local history,” which is should be considered a piece of the larger genealogical puzzle those of us who search for our roots are trying to solve. The piece of local history is about the town where I live, Ithaca, NY, so I hope you will indulge me as I report on Ithaca’s stake in the claim of “Sundae Capital of the World.”

The Saturday August 19, 2006 edition of The Ithaca Journal, reported that “CBS News “Assignment America” crews dropped in on the Purity Ice Cream Parlor (one of my favorite places!) on Route 13 Friday, one stop on their filming tour for a segment on the “Sundae Wars” between Ithaca and Two Rivers, WI.”

The regular segment, featuring reporter Steve Hartman, allows viewers to vote online between three potential stories. In this case, viewers chose what producers have called the “Sundae Feud” over a piece about sailing (apparently without boats) in Rhode Island and an examination of summer camps parents send their children to.

Ithaca and Two Rivers are locked in a spirited, but friendly, debate on which municipality can lay claim to being the first to have served the world famous 19th century American confectionary invention: the ice cream sundae.

Though it has not been actively promoted in the past, Ithaca has long believed the first sundae was served up here in 1892 by Chester Platt, a drug store owner, to the Rev. John M. Scott. That sundae was made of vanilla ice cream, cherry syrup and a candied cherry, according to, a Web site created by former local restaurateur Michael Turback.

Two Rivers officials, however, say that the ice cream sundae was really born there in 1881 when Edward Berners served up a sundae with chocolate sauce and ice cream to George Hallauer at the customer’s request.

Ithaca’s claim is documented by a newspaper ad from the 1892 Ithaca Daily Journal. Two Rivers’ claim is not documented, except by H. L. Mencken. Turback, who also wrote a book on sundaes, “A Month of Sundaes” in 2001, said on Wednesday that Mencken admitted he fabricated the Two Rivers’ story and a similar one coming from Manitowoc, WI.

Who will win the war? The question may or may not be answered this week…

A clip just under three minutes long on the “Sundae Wars” will air on the CBS Evening news this Friday, Aug. 25th at 6:30 p.m.

I know which city I am casting my vote for!