Ice cream should be added to the list of great American pastimes if it isn't already on it. When I first decided Maude Oliver, donkey extraordinaire, from the book, Rescue in Poverty Gulch, loved ice cream, I had to decide how she ate it. My own donkey, Daisy, I'm sure wouldn't put much thought into it. If she couldn't get it into her mouth in one large bite, she'd figure out something else. And watch out for your fingers if you're the benefactor of the treat!
I did a lot of reading about donkeys before Maude made her way to the written page. The real life donkey that gave me the idea for Maude loving ice cream was a modern day donkey. The donkey's owner didn't go into much detail, but I imagined the donkey ate ice cream from a cone. Maude, however, being a fictional donkey, had to eat ice cream the way they did it in 1896.
While ice cream was served many different way during the 1800's, the ice cream cone as we know it, was first sold in a push cart on the streets of New York City by a man named Italo Marchiony who is credited with the invention and production of the cone as early as 1896.
However, the ice cream cone did not gain nationwide popularity until 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair. As the story goes, Ernest Hamwi, a waffle vendor had a booth next to an ice cream salesman that ran out of dishes. Hamwi, solved the ice cream vendor's problem by rolling a waffle into a cone shape that served as an ice cream dish. The cone has undergone changes and modifications throughout the years, but still maintains is "waffly" look.
So, what would have been realistic to assume about how ice cream was served in the gold boom town of Cripple Creek in 1896? Not ice cream cones as we know them today. This led me to the discovery of Penny Licks. A Penny Lick was an ice cream container used primarily by street vendors in the late 1800's. It was a shallow stemmed glass that came in various sizes: half-penny, penny, and a two penny size. The customer would place his order, stand near the cart, lick out the ice cream, and return the container to the vendor. After swishing the container in water, the vendor would collect money from the next customer, scoop a new serving in, and hand the "new" dish to the streetside ice cream lover. Sometimes the container wasn't even washed in between. It's no wonder that in London, in 1899, a law was passed to ban the use of Penny Licks as they were believed to contribute to the spread of Tuberculosis.
Luckily, donkeys don't get Tuberculosis. Or, not that we know of anyway. Maude and Ruby shared many a Penny Lick purchased at the Palace Drug near 2nd Street and Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek in 1896. One would hope the containers were well washed inside the store before ice cream was served to the next customer.
As I've mentioned often, one of the things I love about writing historical fiction is the discovery of factoids about the past. It's always fun to reflect on how things were and the changes that have happened over time. So, think about how far we've come from the pushcart days the next time you have a treat at the Cold Stone Creamery or Baskin Robins. Slurp, lick, and enjoy.