The origin of the “banana split” (a dish of bananas, ice cream, and fruit syrup or fruit topping, usually with crushed nuts, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries) is much in debate. Latrobe (PA) claims a 1904 origin, Boston (MA) claims a 1905 origin, and Wilmington (OH) claims a 1907 origin of the “banana split.”
The first recorded citations are in 1905. The National Association of Retail Druggists met in late September 1905 in Boston, and the “banana split” was later recorded in a popular New York City industry publication, The Soda Fountain. On October 6, 1905, the Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel contained an advertisement for the “banana split.”
Wilmington, Ohio holds an annual Banana Split Festival, but the dish could not have been invented there in 1907.
Wikipedia: Banana split
A banana split is an ice cream-based dessert. In its classic form it is served in a long dish called a “boat”. A banana is cut in two lengthwise (hence the split) and laid in the dish. Variations abound, but the classic banana split is made with scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream served in a row between the split banana. Pineapple topping is spooned over the vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup over the chocolate, and strawberry topping over the strawberry. It is garnished with crushed nuts, whipped cream and maraschino cherries.
David Evans Strickler, a 23-year-old apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, who enjoyed inventing sundaes at the store’s soda fountain, invented the banana-based triple ice cream sundae in 1904. The sundae originally cost 10 cents, twice the price of other sundaes, and caught on with students of nearby Saint Vincent College. News of the sundae spread by word-of-mouth by students, through correspondence, and at professional conventions. Strickler went on to buy the pharmacy, naming it Stickler’s Pharmacy. The city of Latrobe celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the banana split in 2004; The National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) certified the city that year as its birthplace.
A year or two later, historians say, a Boston ice cream entrepreneur came up with the same sundae—with one minor flaw. He served his banana splits with the bananas unpeeled until he discovered that ladies preferred them peeled.
Town fathers in Wilmington, Ohio, claim their city, southeast of Dayton, is the birthplace of the popular treat. They say 1907 was the year and restaurant owner Ernest Hazard was the man. The town commemorates the event each June with a Banana Split Festival.
According to town lore, Hazard wanted to attract fickle students from Wilmington College during the slow days of winter. He staged an employee contest to come up with a new ice cream dish. When none of his workers was up to the task, he split a banana lengthwise, threw it into an elongated dish and created his own dessert.
Brick Farm Ice Cream
Birth of the Banana Split
Was it Boston, MA or Latrobe, PA?
According to Ed Marks, ice cream historian and founder of “The Ice Screamers”, it’s not clear who first invented the Banana Split. It is very possible that the same “invention” occurred in two (or more) places at about the same time.
In Latrobe, PA, they say the banana split was invented by Dr. David Strickler, who, at the time, was a 23 year-old working at Tassell Pharmacy. Much pride is displayed in Latrobe over the creation of the banana split. There are banana buttons and T-shirts. There will be even more fanfare this year with special celebrations taking place, and commemorative pins for sale. Dave Strickler became a pharmacist and optician, and purchased the pharmacy which was renamed “Stricklers.” Dr. Dave’s banana splits were a big hit with the students from nearby Saint Vincent College and the word spread. According to his daughter, her dad “was always the great experimenter” and he even originated the first banana split dish: “There were no dishes for such a concoction, so he drew up his own” and a company in nearby Grapeville produced it.
The banana split was also showcased at the Boston convention of the National Association of Retail Druggists in 1905. Stinson Thomas, chief dispenser at Butler’s Department Store in Boston promoted the banana split there.
According to an article about the convention in The Soda Fountain magazine, “among all the beverages dispensed here, none was more novel with the ladies than the banana split.” The magazine also quotes Mr. Thomas: “My trade here is always looking for something new and so, one day it occurred to me that I might prepare a popular fountain beverage with a banana. I sent my boy out to buy half a dozen bananas, and when he returned I cut off the ends of a banana, split it open, put a portion of ice cream on top and a spoonful of crushed strawberries. It certainly looked swell and I believed that the public would like it.” As with most new creations though, there was some trial and error. “At first we left the peel on the banana in the plate, but some time ago we began removing it altogether. We found that the ladies preferred to have the peel removed.”
9 October 1905, Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel, pg. 6, cols. 7-8:
New Soda Specials
Banana Split 10c
Pineapple Nut Frappe 10c
Malted Orange 10c
Raspberry Nut Sundae 10c
Maple Pecan College Ice 10c
THE WHITE DRUG STORE
243 MAIN STREET
15 January 1907, Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, pg. 5, col. 7 ad:
Banana Split. A generous cone of vanilla ice cream, resting on a prime, ripe banana—split lengthwise. Topped with fresh, chopped nuts—and a rich red cherry, 10 Cents.
Don M. Munger & Co.
LOGAN HOUSE PHARMACY.
18 May 1907, Kennebec (ME) Daily Kennebec Journal, pg. 11, col. 4:
The three flavors of rich ice cream, college ices and the famous “banana split” will make this store a lively resort today.
8 June 1907, Kennebec (ME) Daily Kennebec Journal, pg. 11, col. 4:
Don’t forget the favorite “banana split.” Have you tried it? Richest of ice cream and college ices at the parlor.
July 1907, Confectioners Journal, “The Twenty-Five Best Selling Cold Soda Drinks,” pg. 102, col. 1:
Good fancy drinks make good leaders at the soda fountain and besides welling well are an advertisement for your whole soda business.
Peel and split a banana, lay both halves together on the bottom of a large saucer. On the top of the banana put a cone-shaped measure of ice cream and over this pour a little crushed pineapple, a few powdered nuts, a spoonful of whipped cream. Top with a cherry.
21 March 1908, Washington (DC) Bee, pg. 5:
Remove the skin from a banana, leaving the skin whole, fill it with ice cram, pour some kind of fruit sirup or maple sugar sauce over the ice cream, lay two or three maraschino cherries on top if it is fruit sirup, or sprinkle crushed nuts, if it is maple sugar sauce. Lay the peeled banana on one side in same plate, if oblong plates are used, or slice and place around the ice cream if round plates.
[Also in 18 March 1908, Grand Rapids (WI) Tribune, pg. 6, col. 7—ed.]
22 April 1908, Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, pg. 5, col. 1 ad:
THE NEW COMBINATION SUNDAE
Orange Split, Banana Split, Lovers’ Delight, at
PAPPAS’ Candy Palace
4 July 1908, Idaho Daily Statesman, pg. 4 ad:
10 July 1908, Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times-Leader, pg. 1 ad:
Special to-day and to-morrow at
71 Public Square
19 October 1908, Laurel (MI) Ledger, pg.?:
Banana Split. Take ripe bananas cut lengthwise and lay on small platter. Put ice cream on top, add a few chopped walnuts, 2 or 3 preserved cherries, and raspberry or strawberry juice. Serve.