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The Ice Cream Cone

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

We Rock Islanders have never forgiven that bully, Chicago, for stealing the world's fair away from us back in 1893. Especially since it gave Chicago the honor of introducing the dynamo to the world: that electricity-generating machine that propelled American industry into the twentieth century.

I'm happy to report that we got even. When the world’s fair finally did come to the Mississippi Valley, in St. Louis, in 1904, we got our turn to introduce a world-changing invention.

Like many things that happen in the Mississippi Valley, it was an accident. A food vendor, Ernest A. Hamwi, a recent immigrant from Syria, was selling zalabia, a wafer-thin Persian waffle. At an adjacent stand, another vendor was selling ice cream. There was nothing new about either zalabia or ice cream. Both were ancient foods. The Chinese made iced desserts thousands of years ago.

But now for the accident. The summer of the world's fair in St. Louis was hotter than many could remember, so hot that the ice cream vendor ran out of dishes to serve his ice cream, disappointing a long line of super-heated customers. Ernest Hamwi saved the day. He took one of his Persian waffles, formed a cone out of it, and topped it with ice cream. It was an instant hit for the rest of the fair. Hamwi and the ice cream vendor gave it a name: the World's Fair Cornucopia, but we know it today simply as an ice cream cone. From that day on, the ice cream cone has provided relief and relaxation to millions of people after a hot day at the dynamo.

Of course, we Rock Islanders don't like to be bested, even by St. Louis. We bided our time, for our moment in the sun. Finally, on September 7th, 1975, we outdid St. Louis in the area of frozen desserts. If you check the Guinness Book of World Records, you will discover that on that day, in Davenport Iowa, the Westside Assembly of God church created the world's largest popsicle: 5,750 pounds.

Eat your hearts out, Chicago and St. Louis.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.