|The Debate: The ice cream cone invention story has several variations, most of them describing some ice cream vendor at the fair folding a waffle-like wafer into a cone shape and filling it with ice cream. A dispute has erupted among the various factions in the U.S. including various descendants of the claimants as to whether it was the Syrian immigrant Abe Doumar or the Lebanese Ernest Hamwi who took a “zalabia” the waffle-like pastry in question, and formed it into a cone. According to Pamela Vaccaro in Beyond the Ice Cream Cone, David Avayou, a Turkish immigrant, claimed he saw ice cream cones in Paris and transported the treatto theFair.Other claimants are Italo Marchiony, Nickand Albert Kabaz, Charles Menches and various others people who are said to have invented the ice cream cone. The many claimants, so far, have been unable to produce any fatual documentary evidence to back up their claims. All the evidence we have heard or read so far is purely anecdotal.
One indisputable fact is that Italo Marchiony took out a patent for a multiple cone mould on September 22, 1903, (Number 746971), granted in December 15, 1903. This effectively dismisses the 1904 St. Louis story by one year.
Moving Back the Date: In our book Ices: The Definitive Guide, written in 1993 (published in the US as Frozen Desserts) we wrote that it was Marchiony who was the originator. Subsequently, we found that Mrs. Agnes Marshall (1855-1905) had written about putting ice cream and sorbet in edible cones or cornets in 1888 in her Mrs. Marshall's Cookery Book, published by Mrs. Marshall's Cookery School, London, 1888.
We then discovered that the Corning museum in Corning, New York, had purchased a painting by Xavier delta Gatta of a scene in Naples. Painted in 1820, it shows an ice cream seller in the sea-front in Naples and it is clear that people are eating out of a cone shaped item which is made of glass. The vendor also has a number of these glass cones in his small portable stand.
This effectively moved the first ice cream or sorbet cone, albeit an inedible glass one, to 1820. The first edible cone served with ice cream in it on record so far is Mrs. Marshall's in 1888, although Ivan Day, food historian and wafer maker, says that illustrations of wafers and wafering irons can be traced to at least the 13th century. Bernard Clermont in the English edition of the book The Professed Cook, 1776, refers to twisting wafers into “cornets” or “cornucopia.” But of course, what interests us is the exact point at which someone put ice cream into one of these comet shaped wafers or waffles.
The Pictorial Evidence: In May 2003, thanks to an email from Al Mellis in Chicago we were alerted to a print that had failed to sell on the internet as it had not reached its reserve price. After about six months of negotiating we finally managed to purchase it.
It is a colored engraving, titled “Frascati”, published in 1807. We immediately checked Frascati in Italy but our good friend the Italian food historian June di Schino told us that it was probably Frascati in Paris. Subsequent research has revealed that the artist was Louis-Philibert Debucourt, 1755-1832, a Parisian. According to ARTSEARCH only one copy of the print has ever been auctioned and that was in 1969.
About Frascati: Frascati was a café, restaurant, and gambling house, famous in its day in Paris. It originally opened in 1789, on what is now the Rue Richelieu, across the road from what was then “The Gardens of Frascati”. A Neapolitan named Garchi purchased Frascati about 1792. (The first café in Paris was opened in 1686 by the Sicilian Francesco Procopio del Coltelli from Palermo in Sicily and was called “Procope.” There is still a restaurant of that name in Paris.)
Frascati is mentioned in literature and there are a number of references to i tinChapter Six of William Makepeace Thackery's Vanity Fair. Part of the attraction and success of Frascati was that hitherto only “women of questionable repute” frequented cafes which were in those days almost exclusively a male preserve. Frascati's reputation was such that any lady could be seen there without any hint of a stain on her character.
Descriptions of Frascati are numerous because it was so famous. This “great establishment of pleasure” had frontage on the Boulevard Montmartre of some one hundred and thirty yards and on the Rue Richelieu of fifty yards. It was a substantial site and it consisted of a decorated building and a pleasant garden full of trees.
The 1807 ice cream cone was spotted in the hand of the lady in the middle of the right hand side of this picture
Detail from Louis-Philibert Debucourt's Frascati showing a young woman eating an ice cream in a cone
De'cade Philosophique of 1799 describes it as “a delicious garden in miniature where the fortunate citizens of Paris repair of an evening for ices and fresh air.” Nouveau Parisien of 1801 describes it as follows: “M. Garchi, famous for his ices, has decorated his house in the utmost elegance. It possesses a garden and pavement along the Boulevard. It is one of the most delightful spots in Pans. The flowers, the scents, the lights, the charming women, the fashions, the dresses all combine to make a scene of pleasure at which it is easy to imagine oneself at a feast of Venus,” and “Frascati is the temple of frivolity, to be in the swim, one must visit it.”
Pierre Andrieu in Fine Bouche wrote, “Although one could dine and take supper, even get a bed there, Frascati was before all else, a gaming house, the memory of which lived long in the annals of Parisien life. It was the only place of its kind where women could enter freely.”
In L'Histoire a' Table by Andre Castelot, he writes: “The Frascati was particularly brilliant, brightly lit and Parisian, and people came to seek love and fortune for the 3 livres entrance fee. There was gambling from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Frascati had a garden with a bower of wisteria and young vines.”
Rene Heron de Villefosse wrote in Histoire et Geographie Gourmands de Paris that “Garchi, the shrewd Neapolitan was more successful, —at Frascati the courtyard which measured twenty-five by twelve meters, was transformed. Over the door the huge lantern lit up the facade which was painted blue and pink.” Inside therewere gilded mirrors sparklingbrightly, and successive rooms which opened onto the miniature garden “filled with illuminated orange trees and rose trees, in which rockeries made of canvas and a painted wood tower had difficulty finding room. Coffee, lemonade and ices were offered to these patrons who preferred not to gamble away a few louis on the green baize under the watchful eye of a marble Venus di Medici.”
Garchi, who was Royalist, was wounded in 1795 fighting the troops of General Vendemiare. Castelot writes, “The former Jacobins took their revenge one night by invading the ice maker's eight salons, decorated ‘in antique style' and grievously wounding several patrons. The Etruscan chairs were thrown against the panels of orange wood... .Madame Garchy (Garchi) who had just given birth, fell in a swoon
Sadly, Garchi died insolvent in 1809 practically ruined bythe opening of Tivoli in Rue St. Lazare nearby. He had failed to keep up with the other fashionable establishments. Frascati continued under new ownership and finally closed at midnight on January 1, 1838, when a ban on all gaming-houses came into force in the whole of France.
The Earliest Cone So Far: What can be seen from the 1807 print? We see people in street clothes and in party dresses, people with hats on and what appear to be guards with plumed hats. Most of the people are either drinking or promenading around the magnificent room. Our focus of interest is the small table in the right hand corner of the engraving with two ladies and a gentleman. On the table is a carafe and a glass, and the buxom lady facing us appears to be eating out of a cone which she is holding in her right hand. The gesture is modern and familiar to all of us ice cream cone consumers in the 2lst century: cone slightly tipped, mouth open for a lick. Anyone would recognize this as an ice cream cone.
We have more work to do. We plan to go to Naples later this year to try to trace the origins of M. Garchi, and to Paris to investigate Frascati further. Who was Garchi? Where did beget the funds to buy Frascati? Garchi had eight outlets in Paris at one stage, so was obviously very successful. Still, just spotting this print may well have rewritten some of the history of ices and ice cream.
Thanks to Ivan Day, June di Schimo, Gililain Riley, and Josephine Bacon for research and checking translations. Thanks to Al Mellis for finding the Debucourt print.
Robert J. Weir has spent the last 15 years researching the history of ice cream and the ice cream cone aud together with his wife Caroline Liddell is co-author of Ices, The Definitive Guide, (Grub Street) published in USA as Frozen Desserts by St Martins Press. Mrs Marshall The Greatest Victorian Ice-cream-maker (Smith Settle), and also Recipes from the Dairy (The National Trust) and co-author of The Compleat Mustard (Constable).
Bulletin de Ia Societe Ic Vieux Papier, 1916. Paris.
Fine Bouch, History of the Restaurant in France. Pierre Andieu. Cassell. London, 1956, p. 70,71.
L'Histoire a' Table. Andre Castelot. Plon-Perrin,. Paris, 1972. pp.297,319,473,558,654.
Histoire et Geographic Gourmandes de Paris. Rene Heron de Velifosse. Les Editions de Paris. 1956, pp. 56,57,61,70, 80,83.
© Copyright 2003 and 2004 Robert J. Weir