First off, I'm sick, so you'll all just have to deal with the delirious mess that this post is going to be.
Back when I was a kid, one of my favorite days during the warmer months of the spring was when the elementary afterschool program that I was attending served us root beer floats. Now I refuse to believe that these are not a universal thing, because I feel as though any region without root beer floats should just not exist. But anyways, back in the day, the old ladies who ran the program would give us each a root beer (or orange soda) float, and then let us all run around outside. Naturally on these days, our games of tag, foursquare and house (yes house, because I played nice with all the girls) were particularly vigorous thanks mostly to the massive mainline of sugar that we had each just received. I feel as though perhaps those old ladies loved to watch us tear the playground a new figurative asshole as our sugar-hallucination enhanced creativeness made our airplanes fly higher and our houses grow larger. (The same goes for popsicle day...less so for ritz crackers and cheese day).
Why the fuck am I talking about this nonsense you ask? Well mostly because today at work, we decided, during the absence of our superiors, to make root beer floats (and orange soda floats). After breaking at least two plastic spoons (in our typical "oh shit we got ice cream but forgot an ice cream scoop" crisis), root beer floats were had. And it made me realize just now much I missed that wonderful scoop of ice cream sitting atop a glass of soda. Then, at home, in typical fashion, I just had to know more, because this is one of those food items that I just needed to know who invented.
Well if wikipedia is to be believed, the first root beer float can be attributed to one Mr. Robert M. Green of Philadelphia, PA. Supposedly on one hot day in 1874, Mr. Green ran out of ice for his soda cart, and decided to drop a scoop of ice cream in his flavored soda to keep it cold. Well that is all well and good. Everyone knows that I love that whole "accidental discovery" type of thing. Well here's where it gets strange. According to Mr. Green's personal account in Soda Fountain magazine in 1910, he was working at the Franklin Institute's sesquicentennial (try saying that five times fast) celebration and wanted to upstage a bigger, fancier soda vendor (because the soda wars of the late 1800's were a brutal and bloody affair, many lives were lost, remembered only by the families of those lost...) and so he decided to drop a scoop of ice cream into flavored soda after "experimenting". Supposedly he then sold ice cream soda with your choice of 16 (count 'em 16!) different flavored syrups. Well wikipedia didn't say what came next, but I'm assuming that Mr. Green destroyed the competition, then sealed the deal by leaving a severed horse's head in his competitor's bed, thus sealing his eternal victory in the soda world. Well Mr. Green wasn't quite done yet, according to his will, the words he wanted engraved on his tombstone were "Originator of the ice cream soda", a final move that is obviously the 1900's equivalent of dropping the mic and walking away.
Beyond that, The root beer float was supposedly also the unintended catalyst for the creation of the Ice Cream Sundae. This is due in part to the reputation that sodas held back in the day. Yes bearing in mind that these were the days that people were going around selling snake oils and tonics, billing the oft inert or even poisonous mixtures as cure-alls that would soothe whatever ails ye, sodas apparently also wanted a piece of that magical cure action. Well apparently as with everything awesome, parents were appalled and the government was scared. And when the government gets scared of something, they regulate. Yes they mandated that sodas were not allowed to be sold on sundays...Why? Because you don't want kids drinking too much soda because the FDA hasn't tested the medical effects of FLAVORED SYRUP IN SODA WATER. Well naturally kids back then were flocking to their local soda fountain to get their float fix, and fountains needed to find a way to turn a profit and make the best of their clientele's heroin-like addiction. So they created the sundae (get it...sunday? Sundae?) so that they could make money on the lord's day.
There is one thing during this story that I want to direct your attention to. No it's not the fact that his account of what happened is different from what supposedly happened, no it's not the fact that there are THREE other individuals who claim to have invented the ice cream float (one of whom was actually one of Green's employees), and no it's not the fact that people used to think that soda was a magical curative. No it's more that THEY HAD A SODA FOUNTAIN MAGAZINE BACK THEN! What the fuck?! And I thought we had wayyyy too many magazines that covered WAYYYYY too many topics these days (I mean how many people actually read "Herding Welsh Corgis for profit and for sport quarterly" or "Utilikilts monthly"?). Shit there must be some kind of untapped niche market that I can write to...maybe Ikea cabinet enthusiasts? Or how about people who used to take the tin foil off of their sandwiches and then smash the resulting crumpled ball into a smooth cube. Yeah, that'll make me a fucking billionaire. BBL.
...And that's what I learned today.