Last night while eating ice cream in waffle dishes, Rebecca and I were discussing the origins of the waffle cone. We both vaguely remembered a story that the ice cream cone was invented at a World’s Fair. As it turns out, there is a legend about a Syrian pastry maker named Ernst Hamwi who was selling crispy waffle like pastries called zalabia, and decided to help out an ice cream vendor nearby who had run out of serving dishes. This may or may not be true. It also may or may not be the first instance of the waffle cone. Later, many other vendors also claimed to have come up with the idea at the same time.
It may also be true that a Tea merchant at that same 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis was trying desperately to sell hot tea in the summer, and when he found that sales were slow poured his tea over ice inventing a new best selling beverage.
So what was it about this World’s Fair that made it so conducive to invention? The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 gave us a demonstration of the industrial power of electricity from GE, Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla duelling with lightsabers, The Ferris Wheel, and all kinds of crazy stuff. Ok I made up the part about lightsabers. But still. Where does this stuff happen now? Rebecca made the point that the internet was sort of an always on World’s Fair, so I guess there is that.
At least one wikipedia editor is of the opinion that the current incarnation of the World’s Fair is an exercise in ‘Nation Branding.’ And I suppose that could be true. Anyway, my point here is that I like the idea of the utopian, futurist carnivals of invention (Burning Man, maybe? Hey there’s a thought.) and think that there should be more of them.