Kids love them… adults appreciate the handy, portable way to eat delicious ice cream, and most of us have indulged in the joys of an ice cream cone somewhere along the way. Yet, how often—if ever— have we stopped to consider the amazing history and evolution of the intricate engineering required to put these tasty delights into our sometimes sticky hands? With our Ice Cream Cone Patent design, we seek to pay a small homage to this ubiquitous delight.
As with so many patents, there is much controversy and several versions of the origin story, and in the case of the ice cream cone, most seem to center in the USA. However, there are many earlier references to “wafer” cones rolled into “funnels” or “cornucopias” that could be filled with fruit pastes, creams, and iced puddings—from cookbooks published in the 1700s, in London. Throughout the 1800s, various Italian confectioners and French cafes also refer to “wafers used for ice cream” and turning wafers into “little horns… excellent to ornament a cream.”
Italian immigrants living in Manchester, England, in the mid-1800s during political upheavals throughout Europe, appear to have been the true originators of the ice cream cone used exclusively for ice cream. The food trade provided a living for many Italian families whose labor was often grossly exploited. They slowly progressed from pushing carts to selling their ices from horse-drawn vans. One of the cries in Italian used to hawk their goods—Oche poco (Oh, how little, a reference to the low, more accessible price) was possibly corrupted to “hokey pokey.” By 1884, these street vendors were called Hokey Pokey men, a term that also made its way to the USA for both the vendors and the ice cream. It is estimated that by the end of the 19th century, there were about 900 Hokey Pokey men in London’s Little Italy.
It is generally accepted, however, that the ice cream cone first became popular—and the controversies began—at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Several versions of the story point to several different vendors and their similar roles. The most prominent is that of pastry maker Ernest Hamwi, who came to the aid of an ice cream vendor located next to him at the Fair having a hard time keeping up with the demand for clean glass cups to hold the ice cream. Hamwi solved the problem by rolling a crisp wafer that he called a zalabia (popular in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, & Turkey) while still warm, into a cone shape to hold the ice cream. In an interview he gave to The Ice Cream Trade Journal in May 1928, he was quoted as saying other concessionaires all over the fairgrounds began purchasing his waffles for this purpose, calling them cornucopias. Others who were also at the same World’s Fair, including Nick Kabbaz, Abe Doumar, David Avayou, and Charles Menches, all had similar stories of their own with slight variations, which, of course, is where the controversies began.
With the newfound popularity of ice cream cones after 1904 came myriad inventions and patents to perfect both their manufacture and user-friendliness. Various problems needed to be solved, including leakage from the seams of rolled cones, drippage outside of molded cones, flavor and sweetness constraints due to the delicate and precise baking process, and fragility in storage and shipping.
The Larry Pape Ice Cream Cone patent of 1937 featured in this PatentWear design specifically addresses drippage, grip, and strength. As shown in the four top plan views, the pockets that allow drippage to channel into the main conical chamber are composed of various geometrical shapes including rectangles, triangles, half circles, and 3-sided half hexagonal. This invention can accommodate a variety of cone shapes, whether the handle or bowl is large or small, due to the geometry of the pocket channels connecting the bowl to the handle. The location of the pockets at the top ring and bottom of the bowl and projecting inward directs drippage of melted ice cream as well as any additional food toppings into the main chamber via the pockets and spacings that stop short of an outer wall, thus also preventing leaks at the bottom of the cone. The ornamental outer wall texture aids with grip, and the thicker rings add strength.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the ubiquitous ice cream cone seems here to stay for at least another century, although tinkering with their designs may have subsided somewhat since the early trends of the 1900s.