How An Act Of Generosity Led To The Invention Of Ice Cream Cones

Imagine this: You've been chosen as the ice cream vendor for the 1904 World's Fair in Saint Louis, Missouri — a very big deal — and you've sold so much ice cream, you've run out of paper dishes. There's still ice cream to scoop and serve, but nothing to put it in. Now, who exactly this unlucky ice cream vendor was isn't clear, but according to a letter written in 1928 to the Ice Cream Trade Journal, the vendor's name was either Arnold Fornachou or Charles Menches (via The Nibble). Regardless, the potential disaster was quickly avoided, thanks to the quick thinking of the vendor stationed next to the ice cream stand.

Per the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), it was a man named Ernest Hamwi who saved the day. A vendor from Syria, Hamwi was selling a food called zalabia, a crispy pastry similar to a waffle (almost like a flat ice cream cone) conveniently right next to the ice cream stand. Hamwi saw his fellow vendor's dismay and quickly shaped the zalabia into a cone shape into which Fornachou/Menches was able to scoop the ice cream and serve it to hungry customers. Genius!

Ernest Hamwi took his cone invention and ran with it

Thanks to Ernest Hamwi's quick thinking, the original ice cream cone, or "World's Fair Cornucopia," was born. Hamwi quickly capitalized on his invention, selling his zalabia oven to a J.P. Heckle, with whom he founded the Cornucopia Waffle Company, and he later also founded the Missouri Cone Company (via What's Cooking America). To promote the new product, Hamwi and his colleagues attended a fair in Augusta, Georgia where they gave out 5,000 ice cream cones for free to fair attendees.

Naturally, there are other possible stories as to how the ice cream cone was invented — What's Cooking America also mentions accounts of wafers used to eat ice cream dating back to the 1700s. However, in the 1950s, the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers recognized Hamwi as the official inventor of the ice cream cone. Hamwi's act of generosity goes to show that in the end, being a kind person and a team player always pays off.