Small Businesses; Travel Troubles; the Scoop on Ice Cream Cones

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Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 23, 2019. My pal Craig Shirley reminds me -- well, to tell the truth, he reminded all his Facebook friends -- that 35 years ago President Reagan designated July 1984 as “National Ice Cream Month.” The Gipper even decreed that ice cream should have its own day that year. He chose July 15, which is the birthday of my brother David, may he rest in peace. Craig included an arresting photo of Ron and Nancy Reagan eating ice cream cones when he was governor of California, which made me nostalgic.

Eighty years earlier, on this very date in 1904, a turn-of-the-century foodie named Charles E. Menches invented the ice cream cone -- or so he said. We’ll examine that historic claim in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

Empowering America’s Small Businesses to Confront China. Sen. Marco Rubio explains why updates to the Small Business Act of 1953 are essential.

Fund the FAA Before Travel Challenges Get Even Worse. Former Rep. Nick Rahall warns that unwise budget cuts and poorly arranged priorities are putting commercial air travelers at risk for more than just longer delays.

Mueller Report’s Dubious Footnotes. In RealClearInvestigations, Eric Felten writes that a close reading reveals a reliance on media accounts, the claims of anti-Trump critics, and unsubstantiated gossip and speculation.

50 Years Ago, a Young Woman -- and a Candidacy -- Died. In RealClearPolicy, David Franke revisits the Chappaquiddick tragedy.

The Coming Impact of Robotics. Also in RCPolicy, Brent Orrell spotlights a new study estimating that 14 million Chinese manufacturing workers can expect to be displaced over the next decade. Losses in the U.S. will be felt mostly in a handful of states.

Kim Jong Un’s Limo Is a Lesson for Central Planners. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny argues that a Mercedes in Pyongyang, despite a U.N. ban on exporting luxury goods to North Korea, is easily explained by economic principles.

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On July 23, 1904, Charles Menches and his brother Frank were operating an ice cream stand at the St. Louis World’s Fair when he noticed girls placing the ice cream they ordered in the holes of small cakes they’d purchased at another shop.

According to an obituary that went out over the news wires when Charles Menches died in 1931 -- and picked up by newspapers around the world -- here is what happened next: “He watched for a short time and suddenly leaped from his chair and ran to a confectioner's booth. Rolling a cake around on his finger, he filled it with ice cream. The result was a revolution.”

Did it really happen that way? Could be. Or perhaps there was more to it.

The booth the Menches brothers raided for the pastries used to make the first ice cream cones in St. Louis belonged to a Syrian immigrant named Ernest A. Hamwi, whose recollection differed in one important regard. In Hamwi’s telling, the Menches ran out of the dishes they were using to serve ice cream. He helped them by fashioning a thin Persian pastry into a conical shape to accommodate the frozen confection.

So Ernie Hamwi was the true inventor of the ice cream cone? Well, at a minimum he certainly capitalized on it. After the 1904 “invention,” he became manager of the Cornucopia Waffle Co. in St. Louis and later started the Missouri Cone Co. In 1928, Hamwi related his story to an industry publication called Ice Cream Trade Journal, which vouched for his account.

Hold on a moment, say the descendants of another enterprising immigrant, Italo Marchiony, who’d come from Italy through Ellis Island in the waning days of the 19th century. If Hamwi and the Menches brothers invented the ice cream cone in St. Louis in 1904, what was Signore Marchiony doing selling them on the streets of New York in 1896?

Evidence for this claim comes from more than Marchiony’s relatives. The U.S. Patent Office issued a patent for a waffle cone in December 1903, months before the World’s Fair began. It sounds like a strong case. Yet others have traced the concoction to an even earlier time -- and back across the Atlantic Ocean.

In “Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Cookery Book,” the author (an Englishwoman) includes a recipe for a “coronet with cream.” That was in 1888. But pump the brakes! Five years earlier, another best-selling cookbook, “The Epicurean” by Charles Ranhofer, had specific recipes for such cones. Ranhofer was the iconic chef at Delmonico’s, which was a New York City establishment. Yet that might not be the last word. Charles Ranhofer, you see, was also an immigrant. He was born, and learned his craft, in France.

Cornets de glace pour tous! 

Carl M. Cannon  
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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