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Food Timeline>1920s Ice cream specials

Alcohol-free soda fountains flourished during Prohibition. Emulating bartenders of days past, fountain mixologists were admired for their showmanship and endless supply of creative concoctions. Trendy ice cream sundaes, like cocktails, paid tribute to popular people, places, music, politics and theatre. This makes sundaes a perfect medium for learning about the popular culture of this particular decade. The selections below were published in The Dispenser's Formulary , [Soda Fountain Publications:New York] 1925. If you were a customer in a 1920s soda fountain you knew what the names meant. We're dishing these sundaes with a side order of history. Enjoy!

Bull Moose Tango Buster Brown Peg O' My Heart Don't Care
Commodore Perry Fruit Cocktail Brooklyn Bridge Hippodrome Chop Suey Mix
Mutt & Jeff The Monorail Turkey Trot Gibson Girl Club Sandwich
Euchre Special Dunce Cap Sundae Free Lunch Dreamland Sundae Culebra Cut

Bull Moose

"Place a No. 10 scoopful of ice cream in a sundae glass; pour over the cream a ladleful of chocolate marshmallow dressing, add a spoonful of chopped nuts and top with a chocolate bud. Stand two froufrou wafers, one on each side of the cream, to represent the horns of a moose. Prepare the marshmallow cream as follows: Make a smooth paste with chocolate and hot water, and add to the marshmallow cream. About one ounce of chocolate to a quart of cream will give the desired flavor. This sundae sells readily for 15 cents." (p. 106)
What was Bull Moose?


"In an 8-ounce phosphate glass put a No. 20-to-the-quart disherful of chocolate ice cream. Over this pour 1/2 ounce butterscotch dressing and a soda spoonful of finely ground nuts. On this put a No. 20-to-the-quart disherful of vanilla ice cream, 1/2 ounce marshmallow dressing, and a dash of ground nuts. Over this our a very little heavy chocolate dressing, and top with a cherry or slice of fresh peach, and one cloverleaf wafer. Charge 20 cents." (p. 106)
Would you like to Tango?

Buster Brown

"Fill a punch glass with half chocolate ice cream and half pineapple sherbet, and pour over the mixture a ladleful of caramel nut sauce or catawba syrup." (p. 107)
Who was Buster Brown?

Peg O' My Heart

"Into a footed sundae cup put a small dipperful of vanilla ice cream; cover with marshmallow whip and then add 1/2 ounce chocolate syrup. Insert slices of banana around the inside of the glass, and top with whipped cream and chopped nuts. Decorate with red and green cherries. Sells for 15 cents." (p. 108)
Who was Peg?

Don't Care Egg Shake

'Don't Care' syrup, 1 ounce, Sherry, 4 dashes, Egg, 1, Cream, a little, Cracked ice. Shake well, fill glass with carbonated water, fine stream, strain into a clean glass and sprinkle ground nutmeg on top. This beverage is improved by serving all milk." (p. 82)

This text does not share the ingredients/origin/manufacturer of 'Don't Care syrup.' Which makes us wonder. Decoding pre-prohibition-era beverage formulae can be complicated. The Dispenser's Formulary slipped in Sherry. These two are alcohol-free:

"Don't Care Syrup.
Blackberry juice, 1 quart.
Grape juice, 1 quart.
Sugar, 4 1/2 pounds.
Lemon syrup. 1 pint.
Dissolve the sugar in the juices by the aid of heat, strain, and when cold add the lemon syrup."
---"Soda Water Formulas...," Druggists' Circular and Chemical Gazette, May 1, 1906, 5: American Periodicals (p. 177)

"Non-spiritous Eggnog. Ingredients: An egg, a quarter glass full of powdered ice, a half ounce of vanilla or ginger syrup or an ounce of 'Punch and Judy' or 'Don't Care' syrup and a half teaspoonful of essence of ginger. After pouring in the ingredients, including the egg, fill the mixing glass with milk. Then shake all together, strain and sprinkle nutmeg on top."
---"Advertising Hot Soda Products," American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, January 1, 1914; 62,1; Amercan Periodicals (p. 57)

Historic context weighs in:
"'Well, what'll your's be?' queried the man in the white apron behind the counter of a Broadway soda fountain yesterday. 'Cream soda,' was the laconic rejoinder of the young man with the ice cream clothes, the don't-give-a-hang air and the red-rimmed eyes. 'Flavor?' 'Don't care.' The young man gave it a peculiar intontaion, but it was lost on the soft-drink dispenser. He spilled a little syrup on it, shot in a torrent of fizz-eater, stuck a coupe of straws atop and set the result of the operations before his customer. The languid one sipped once, stared, sipped again and scowled. 'Say, what's this stuff, anyway?' 'Just what you ordered. Ic cream, soday water and 'don't care.' 'Sure, but-er-I thought 'don't care' was-ah-whisky, you know.' 'Not in this town, it ain't,' said the man of spoons and syrups grimly. 'You can't get booze flavors by the 'don't care' route any more--not in Los Angeles. 'Don't care' means a lot of things, according to the place you go to, but it don't mean whisky anywhere. Here it means sarsparilla. See?' 'No I don't see. What's the matter with the world anyway? Is this part of the reform wave?' 'Not that I know of,' returned the fountain man, swashing his glasses about inte tank. 'We cut out the old way a good while ago, along with everybody else around these parts. It made too much trouble. Every once in a while somebody comes in and says 'don't care' when we ask him what flavor he wants. Maybe he means whisky and then, again, maybe he don't. Maybe he's a good sport--but he's just about as likely to be a Sunday-school superintendent. I gave a kind of a seedy-looking chap a good stiff shot of brandy one time when he said 'don't care,' but never again. He turned out to be a delegate to an Epworth League meeting and he just naturally raised thunder. Said he'd have me pinched for selling liquor without a license and so on...No sir, if you 'don't care,' there's a gin-mill right around the corner."
---"Don't Care, You know. Local Foam and Fizz Expert Hands Out Straight Tips to Those Seeking High Favors," Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1910 (p. II2)

Commodore Perry

"Into a large sundae dish place a large dipperful each of strawberry, vanilla and French vanilla ice cream, putting crushed strawberries over the strawberry ice cream, crushed pineapple over the vanilla ice cream, and grape juice over the French vanilla ice cream. Top off with whipped cream and red cherries. Sells for 15 to 20 cents." (p. 120)
Who was Commodore Perry?

Fruit Cocktail

"Chipped and iced fruits, commonly known as 'fruit cocktails,' always find favor with children, and may be substituted for the richer frozen creams. Shredded pineapple and ripe bananas, sliced and mixed together with puverized sugar, may have poured over them a little lemon or orange juice and then be set in a refrigerator to ripen, time being given for the various gruit flavors to combine. When ready to serve fill sherbet glasses with chopped ice and and add a couple of spoonfuls of the shredded fruit and the juice formed around it. Charge 10 cents." (p. 121)
Why was fruit cocktail popular in the 1920s?

Brooklyn Bridge

"On an oblong dish place two (No. 16) scoopfuls of chocolate ice cream, one at each end of the dish. Over each cone of ice cream scatter a few chopped pecans and top with a little whipped cream, being careful to leave the space between the ice cream cones vacant. Then fill this space with mint syrup; connect the two cones of ice cream with a half slice of orange. The chocolate ice cream cones represent the banks of the river, the mint syrup the water,, and the orange, the bridge. Charge 15 cents." (p. 118)
What made the Brooklyn Bridge special?


"In a sundae dish place a scoopful of chocolate ice cream, one of orange sherbet and one of cherry nougat. Cover this foundation with a layer of chopped bananas and top off with whipped cream and cherries, selling for 15 cents. This combination may be advertised by the phrase 'See all the colors of the Hippodrome in our Hippodrome Sundae.'" (p. 122)
Why would people visit the Hippodrome?

Chop Suey Mix

"Take an average size spoonful of hard vanilla ice cream and lay it in anordinary sundae glass, cover with 'Arabian Eats,' prepared as given below, and top off with a spoonful of whipped cream, in the center of which place big maraschino cherry. To make the 'Arabian Eats,' take an equal amount of dates and figs, grind and mix them together with a little maple syrup, and finally add a few chopped pecans, or whole ones may be used if preferred. 'A good seller at 10 cents.'" (p. 126)
What was chop suey?

Mutt & Jeff

"On a long platter put an 'animal' cracker representing a horse; on the cracker put a No. 10 dipperful of vanilla ice cream and a No. 20 dipperful of strawberry ice cream. The two portions of ice cream represent 'Mutt and Jeff' and the cracker is used because the two characters represented like to bet on the 'ponies.' Over these pour a caramel sauce made of equal parts of glucose, sugar and cream, as follows: Heat the glucose and sugar almost to the boiling point and add the cream, stirring until thorougly mixed. The place a spoonful of whipped cream on each of the figures, a green cherry on 'Jeff' and a red one on 'Mutt.' Sells for 20 cents." (p. 130)
Who were Mutt & Jeff?

The Monorail

"A mold to form the ice cream in the shape of a gyroscope or monorail car is necessary. This can be very easily obtained at any hardware store where the tinner will make one for about 75 cents. The size of the mold will depend upon the size of the car one wishes to represent. A colonial style 'happy-thought' dish is recomended for dispensing the sundae. The cream when molded should measure 3 X 1 X 3/4 inches and have the shape of a car with a seating capacity of eight. The mold is so made that it leaves the inside of the car hollow. Into this cavity is poured a mixture of crushed pineapple and strawberry fruits and over it is sprinkled a few finely ground nuts. Then place small candy Teddy Bears around the car--three on either side and one at either end. Then put two spoonfuls of whipped cream evenly along the center of the car and serve the sundae with three assorted wafers on a small china plate...This sundae sells readily for 25 cents." (p. 142)
What was a monorail?

Turkey Trot

"To prepare, grind together in equal proportions to make 1 pound, four kinds of nuts, viz., walnuts, pecans, almonds and filberts; pour the ground nuts into a pint of thick chocolate and a pint of marshmallow whip, and mix so as to make a pudding. To serve, take a silver sundae cup, into it put a No. 12-to-the-quart dipperful of vanilla ice cream, then add the pudding and over it put 2 a red cherry on the opposite side." (p. 152)
Where would you see a Turkey Trot?

Gibson Girl

"Peel, split and slice 2 bananas, and peel, halve, quarter and slice 2 oranges; cut into quarters whole cherries, about 6 ounces. Place these fruits thus prepared, with about 4 ounces of cherry juice, in a fruit or punch bowl and add sufficient syrup to cover. Stir and let the mixture stand for about six hours. In a sundae dish place a ladleful of vanilla ice cream and over it 1 ounce of crushed pineapple. Over this pour a ladelful of the 'Gibson Girl' mixture...Can be served for 10 cents." (p. 163)
Would you have been a Gibson Girl?

Club Sandwich

"Have an individual mold made by a tinsmith. He may use for a model a small ice cream sandwich mold, making it three inches wide and two and one-half inches long. Have the bottom plate made to fit very closely and perfectly flat on the inside so as not to retain any soft cream or water that may accumulate during the rush hours. Take two saucers, one smaller than the other, put a napkin between them, place a fresh, crisp lettuce leaf on the top saucer, then proceed with the sundae. Cut a slice of orange, trim all the rind off carefully and put it on the bottom of the mold. Place a creme de menthe cherry in each corner and fill mold half full of vanilla ice cream. Then cover with two nabisco wafers, several slices of pineapple (creme de rose pineapple adds to the color scheme), and fill balance of mold with orange sherbet or water ice. Press firmly, turn out and place before your customer. Always be careful to thorougly drain your fruit before using and it works easier if chilled. Should the sandwiches be desired to fill outside orders use lady fingers instead of wafers." (p. 143)
Who invented Club sandwiches?

Euchre Special

"On a china ice cream plate place half of a banana, which cover with chocolate whipped cream. On this lay a slice of a pint brick of vanilla ice cream one-half inch thick. In two diagonal corners and in the center of the slice of ice cream put red Maraschino pineaple aces of the cards. On the side of the dish beside the frappe lay two nabiscos and serve. Sells for 15 or 20 cents. The author explains that the so-called pint bricks of ice crean are used because, when sliced, the slices are near to the size of the playing card they are supposed to represent. To make the chocolate whipped cream, use 3 ounces of cocoa and mix thoroughly with a little simple syrup; then pour the mixture into a quart of heavy cream when it is almost whipped." (p. 105-106)
How to play Euchre.

Dunce Cap Sundae

"On a sundae saucer or dish put one spoonful of whipped cream, pressing it into a circular shape. Upon it place one large-sized cone-shaped disher of vanilla cream. Press the ice cream down so as to form a roll or ridge of whipped cream all arouund the base of the cone. Stud the ice cream with choice currants, top with a fresh cherry, and sprinkle over with a spoonful of chopped roasted almonds. Sells for 15 cents." (p. 119)
Who wore a dunce cap?

Free Lunch

"Take a deep sundae dish, one that will hold two disherfuls of cream, and put in one disherful of vanilla ice cream. Over this put some chocolate syrup, a few pieces of sliced bananas and a half teaspoonful of malted milk. Now put in another disherful of vanilla cream and cover with chocolate syrup. Place sliced bananas all around thetop with a spoonful of chopped pecans over all. At the top, in the center, place a Maraschino cherry with a toothpick through it. This delicacy sells readily for 15 cents and is a trade winner." (p. 120)
Where could people get a free lunch?

Dreamland Sundae

"Into a banana special dish lay two good sized slices of a peach. In the center place a medium-sized scoopful of vanilla ice cream. Put a spoonful of whipped cream at each side of the ice cream and cover with walnuts and a cherry. Over the vanilla ice cream put a spoonful of crushed pineapple and top with a red and green cherry. Serve with two nabisco wafers...sells for 15 cents." (p. 112)
What happened in Dreamland?

Culebra Cut

"Use a boat-shaped dish. Peel and cut lengthwise one banana, place on the dish, spreading the slices of banana apart. Cut a small slices of pineapple in the center, place one cut on outside of banana in the center (to represent Culebra cut through which the boat is passing). Now pour pistachio-flavored syrup colored a pale green (representing the ocean) on the outside of the banana and on each side of the pineapple so as to trickle under the fruit. On top of this shake a tablespoonful of ground pistachio nuts and put a tablespoon of malted milk on each side of the banana (the rock and sands of the cut). Near each end of the banana place o No. 20-to-the-quart cone of fruit ice cream. In the top of one place a tiny U.S. flag, and in the other stick a Union Jack. In the center put a ball of chocolate ice cream into the sides of which stick two chocolate cigarettes (the guns), and between the cones sprinkle a teaspoonful of chocolate tidbits (the people on board). A toothpick placed upright in each end of the banana, one carrying a red cherry, the other a green cherry, will reproduce the signal lights. Serve with a tiny glass of vichy water. The author states that this delicacy costs 12 cents to make and easily sells for 20 cents." (p. 132)
Where was the Culebra cut?

About the soda fountain trade, 1925

"Soda sales in the United States have grown to the astonishing total of $497,500,000.00, and when we add to this the luncheonette business of $176,650,000.00 and candy sales of $800,000,000.00 we reach a gross total for all three branches of the fountain trade's sales of nearly a billion and a half dollars. Competition for this business is keen for there are 91,241 real soda fountains in the country, giving an average daily sales of $46.10 per fountain. Over forty thousand fountains--nearly half of the total--are in confectionery and soda shops; 38,503 are in the drug trade; over 7,000 in department, general and five and ten cent stores; the balance, 4561 are in other miscellanous places of business and amusement. All these fountains are distributed throughout the entire country pretty much in proportion to the population, although they are higher than the average in the various New England states and somewhat below the general ratio to population in the southern sections.

"These are interesting and significant figures, and it is a wise thing for a fountain man once in a while to sit down and study his market so as to judge more wisely his opportunities. It is an encouraging feeling for the man of energy and ambition to learn that all of the fountains in the country there are a 'best third'--33,510 to be exact--which do nearly three-quarters of the business and have an average daily sale of $91.40. It is a very tangible and attainable ambition to put your fountain into the class of the elite fountains, and here is a practical and convenient yardstick for measuring your trade accomplishments...Competition is keen in the fountain trade...there are three factors in the success of a fountain store-- quality, sanitation, and service...The public is sensitive in the matter of its beverages and is becoming more and more discriminating in its tastes. The pure-food campaigns, the wide-spread propaganda for sanitation and hygiene, and the growing enlightenment of the people are all reflected in the demand at the soda fountain...the soda fountain which acquires and maintains a reputation for quality and purity automatically enjoys a profitable popularity."
---The Dispenser's Formulary, Soda Fountain Magazine [Soda Fountain Publications:New York] 4th edition 1925 (p. 13-14)

What's in a name?
While soda fountain menus typically offered fanciful product names, the industry promoted standardization. Then, as today, patrons wanted to know what they were getting when they ordered a item.

"Aside from the direct usefulness of this book to thousands of fountain has done a wider service to the entire fountain trade in assisting to standardize fountain practice and promote uniformity in the naming of fountain drinks. Since the standard definitions of the various classes of fountain drinks and delicacies was first has been conclusively proved that the rage for trick or fancy names was not a sound selling policy. The public wants to know just what it is going to get when it orders a banana split or a frosted coffee. They will not gamble far with their own taste, and except in the case of the fancy syndaes, a fancy name is poor merchandising. Even when, in this case, a catchy or timely name is used to push a specialty, it is money-making wisdom to indicate on menu or wall strup just what the principal ingredients and flavors are." (p. 11-12)

"Words of warning can advantegeously be sounded in the matter of naming sundaes. The names in the following pages are standard in many cases. A great number of the following formulas are prize winner in the Soda Fountain's monthly contests and as such, have a wide reputation. There is always a danger in carrying the fancy name idea too far--for a fine name does not of necessity mean a fine sundae, while the too fancy names are apt to be fantastic and even funny to one who possesses a sense of humor. Stick to original names of the sundaes and help make them more and more standard and uniform. The Formulary contains typical formulas for sundaes for every special occasion. A decidedly local event or intimiate personal touch is then only reasonable excuse that can be advance for the use of a specially coined name." (p. 105)

How much would these 1925 ice cream sundaes cost in 2010?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics
inflation calculator indicates they would be astonishing affordable. According to this source:
10 cents in 1925 had the same buying power as $1.25 in 2010.
15 cents in 1925 had the same buying power as $1.87 in 2010.
20 cents in 1925 had the same buying power as $2.49 in 2010.
25 cents in 1925 had the same buying power as $3.11 in 2010.
Of course, product sizes play a key role.

Recommended reading: Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains/Anne Cooper Funderburg

More foods from the 1920s.

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Research conducted by Lynne Olver, editor The Food Timeline. About this site.
© Lynne Olver 2004
3 January 2015