Among the many stories about the invention of the sundae, a frequent theme is that the ice cream sundae was a variation of the popular ice cream soda. According to an account published by the Evanston Public Library (Illinois), the sale of soda was prohibited on Sundays in Illinois because they were considered too “frilly”.

Other origin stories for the sundae focus on the novelty or inventiveness of the treat or the name of the originator and make no mention of legal pressures.

The ice cream sundae soon became the weekend semi-official soda fountain confection at the beginning of the 1900s and quickly gained popularity. The Ice Cream Trade Journal for 1909 listed, along with plain, or French sundae, such unique varieties as Robin Hood sundae, Cocoa Caramel sundae, Black Hawk sundae, Angel Cake sundae, Cherry Dip sundae, Cinnamon Peak sundae, Opera sundae, Fleur D’Orange sundae, Knickerbocker sundae, Tally-Ho Sundae, Bismarck and George Washington sundaes, to name a few.

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