"How the Ice Cream Cone was Invented " is one of the stories that toured from 2012-2013. This page is for teachers to use with their students to extend the learning experience and enhance their curriculum. The activities on this page are story specific and are designed as follow-up to the performance. Also see the Study Guide Main Page for activities to prepare your students for the show in general.
Charles and his girlfriend Anna are selling ice cream at the World's Fair when Buford sets up an ice cream stand next to them, selling bigger dishes of ice cream at a lower price. Trying to compete with him, they keep trying new things, such as ice cream sandwiches, but he copies their success. Finally ready to give up, they are about to go home when they suddenly get the idea to create something totally new: the ice cream cone, which will create a sensation and bring the customers to their stand for good.
Question for discussion: What lesson or moral might be learned from this story? (Possible answers: Never give up; The "little guy" can defeat the "big guy" through determination and resourcefulness; Keep your "antennae out" – i.e., be on the alert for inspiration, because sometimes the best ideas come when we're paying attention to something else.)
Common Core State Standards:
Watch the slide show version of the story with your class from it's first incarnation in 2003 with our son as part of the cast.
Who Invented the Ice Cream Cone?
The invention of the ice cream cone is an event clouded by mystery and legend, which is why it makes for such a compelling folk tale. Which is why we perform it. There's probably no way we'll ever know for certain who invented it or how, since nobody bothered to post it on Facebook. And whenever the facts are missing, the storytelling imagination takes over.
Although legend has it that the cone was invented at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, there is evidence that in one form or another it actually may be much older. Back in the 1770s, waffles rolled into "cornets" were stuffed with a number of delectables, including ices. An engraving from 1807 depicts a pair of fashionable ladies in a Parisian cafe noted for its ice cream, enjoying what appears to be ice cream in cones. In the 1850s, Italian immigrants who sold ice cream on the streets of New York may have created something somewhat like an ice cream cone. (These vendors were called "hokey pokey" men; the term hokey pokey is derived from some Italian phrase they apparently called out, but it's uncertain as to exactly what it was.)
In 1903, Italo Marchiony, who owned over 40 ice cream pushcarts in New York City, patented a machine for making edible wafer containers for ice cream. Thus, he's often credited with the invention of the ice cream cone. But his containers were really flat-bottomed cups rather than cones.
It seems pretty certain that, even though the basic idea had been around for some time, the ice cream cone as we now know it was introduced at the Fair. There really were, as we state in our production, about 50 ice cream vendors at the Fair, and there were also a dozen or so vendors of waffles or zalabia (as they were called by immigrants from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey). And it's almost certain that the ice cream cone was born when one of each joined forces. But who? And how exactly did it happen? Here are the leading candidates:
Ernest Hamwi. A zalabia vendor of Middle Eastern descent, he may have come up with the idea all by himself. (He claimed he did, but he made that claim in 1928.) After the fair, he founded the Cornucopia Waffle Company, because he called his treat the World's Fair Cornucopia. It wasn't until 1910 that he realized he could save a few syllables by calling it the ice cream cone. In most accounts, Hamwi collaborated with an ice cream vendor at the World's Fair, and in some accounts, it was the ice cream vendor who actually came up with the idea.
Nick Kabbaz was a Syrian immigrant who worked with his brother Albert at the Fair. It's possible that they worked with Ernest Hamwi. He eventually became president of the St. Louis Ice Cream Cone Company.
Abe Doumar, another Syrian who sold ice cream at the Fair, dressed in the traditional garb of his homeland, claimed to have invented the cone and a machine to make it; he also stated that he shared his idea with the other vendors, which caused confusion about who came up with it first. His family has produced photos and documents that seem to back up his story.
David Avayou, from Turkey, claimed that he invented the cone inspired by paper and metal ice cream cones he'd seen in France. He claimed he experimented for weeks before he got the cone just right.
Arnold Fornachou, an 18-year-old ice cream vendor, is sometimes said to be the one who collaborated with Hamwi.
Charles Menches Obviously, this is our favorite. Unlike the others, it has a specific date, supposedly occurring on July 23, 1904. Menches, a former trapeze artist and circus manager from Ohio, sold ice cream at the Fair with his brother Frank. The story goes that when a lady friend of his (yes, her name really was Estelle) wrapped a wafer around her ice cream, it gave them an inspiration. They then created cones by wrapping warm waffles (or zalabia) around a fid (a cone-shaped tool used in setting up tents) until they cooled. It's quite possibly true; they're also credited with creating the hamburger at another fair, as well as a snack called Gee Whiz, which was eventually renamed Cracker Jack. Today, there are two Menches Brothers restaurants in Ohio.
- a type of fish
- formerly the name given to a very large type of dinosaur
- (slang) machine, tool or device
- small and unimportant
- (French, ahn-truh-pruh-NOOR)... a person who starts a business
- very large
- (slang) new
- a machine used in the old days to play music (also called a record player or hi-fi)
Common Core State Standards:
Even though this story may be partly true, it is still classified as a folktale. What elements make it a folktale? How is it similar to other well known folktales and works of fiction?
History of the 1904 World's Fair
Formally called the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition because it commemorated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase (it opened a year later than planned and cost about the same as the Purchase itself) the 1904 World's Fair was the stuff of legend. The largest, most spectacular fair ever held up until that time, it attracted participants from 62 countries and nearly 20 million attendees over a period of about 6 months. Helen Keller and Geronimo, among others, made appearances. Oh, and by the way, the Summer Olympics were also held at the Fair.
There were more than 1500 temporary buildings constructed from plaster, hemp and wood. Almost all were dismantled after the fair was over. You could watch the demolition for 25 cents – everything about the Fair was entertaining, including its destruction.
This Fair supposedly saw the introduction of several food items we now take for granted. In addition to the ice cream cone, these included sliced bread, peanut butter, the hot dog, cotton candy, and iced tea. It's possible, however, that some of these items were not really introduced, but merely popularized, at the Fair. Dr. Pepper and puffed wheat were also promoted there for the first time.
There was also an early version of what we now call the cell phone (actually, most of us just call it a phone now). It was much bigger and clumsier than today's models, but the point is that it was a portable phone. And that was truly a marvel, because in those days, most folks didn't have a phone of any kind at home.
Electricity was a novelty, but there was a Palace of Electricity, and about half a million light bulbs lit up the exposition at night. There was a ferris wheel 265 feet high with cars the size of buses, each with its own conductor. It took 30 minutes to ride it, and some people took advantage of the time, and the view, and the unique location, to get married on the wheel.
The main thoroughfare was called The Pike; and that name was something else that was popularized at the Fair. There was always something new and exciting "coming down the pike" and even though that expression had already appeared in print at least 3 years earlier ("pike" is short for turnpike or toll road, though often used for any busy road), the Fair gave it a whole new level of intensity.
Making a cone
Have the students experiment with the best way to make a cone shape from a piece of paper. Use recycled newspaper for this experiment. Let them brainstorm and try their theories out before providing any help.
Solution: cut a semi-circle and then roll the paper starting on one end into a cone shape. The performers do the same on stage. We have newspaper and "zalabia" (fun foam) precut into semi-circles and hidden from view.
We perform the story of the ice cream cone in the style of a melodrama, which was a type of storytelling that was very popular from about 1750 to about 1900. By 1904, when our story takes place, it was no longer as much in vogue as it once had been, but it was soon to enjoy renewed favor with the coming of silent movies; The Perils of Pauline (1914) is an excellent example of a very popular melodramatic movie serial. So, even though our story is set in a period when the style wasn't quite so much in vogue, we feel justified in performing it as a melodrama, especially since it just fits so well.
Melodrama comes from the Greek word melos, meaning music (as in melody). Traditionally, melodramatic performances used music to heighten the emotional appeal of the story. This continued with silent movies, of course; a musical soundtrack was used to accompany the action in place of spoken dialog.
But with or without music, emotion was what really mattered. The stories, many of which had supernatural elements and made use of special effects such as explosions, storms or earthquakes, had very simple plots and characters. Which is why most people no longer take melodrama seriously – they've seen the same plots and characters many times already. The hero was very obviously a hero, and the villain was very obviously a villain. There was often a bumbling sidekick for the hero, a helpless damsel in distress, a greedy landlord or banker or railroad magnate, and even a cute and/ or heroic animal. (Think Lassie rescuing Timmy from the well.) There was no depth to the characters, no internal conflict, nothing to make them believable, unique individuals.
But melodrama is still very much with us, even though it's not as obvious as it once was. Many movies and TV programs are essentially melodramas (especially soap operas), although they often at least have more inventive plots than the melodramas of a century or two ago. Today, however, the traditional exaggerated style of melodramatic actions and dialog seem comical, and therefore they are often used to comic effect (as we do).
The Great American Melodrama Company has been presenting melodramas for many years, offering contemporary audiences an amusing and nostalgic glimpse of bygone days.
Suppose you were going to make a filmed version of this story. Create a storyboard for it, using drawings and/or magazine photos. Insert additional scenes if you wish. Be certain to include “shots” that give an indication of the setting.
Questions for Review
- Who is the protagonist (hero) of the story? Is there more than one?
- Who is the antagonist (villain) of the story?
- This story has a happy ending. What could have made it a sad or not so happy ending.
- What elements of melodrama do you see in our presentation of the story?
- Although this story may be more or less true, it's still a folk tale. Why?
- What lesson or lessons could a person learn from this story?
- How does Buford try to take away customers business from Charles and Estelle? What do they do in response?
- What does "keep your antennae out" mean?
- What does "think big" mean, besides just making everything bigger?