Who Really Invented the Ice Cream Soda?

WikimediaCommons // Darin House // CC BY 2.0

Happy Ice Cream Soda Day! It's unfortunate that we don't know who exactly invented the beloved sweet treat, because if we did, we could have one in his honor. Though Robert McCay Green is the guy who generally gets credit for the fizzy concoction, at least three others have claimed the idea was originally theirs. Here are their stories.

Robert McCay Green

Even though Green usually gets the recognition, there are still two versions of his story. In one, Green was a vendor at an exhibition in Philadelphia in 1874, serving sweet cream sodas to customers. His stand was so popular that he ran out of sweet cream and was unable to purchase more on short notice. He was able to find ice cream, however, and figured it would be a good substitute once it melted. But customers were anxiously awaiting their sodas, and Green decided that scoops of ice cream would have to do. By the end of the exhibition, he was doing $400 a day in ice cream sodas.

The other story, a first-hand account that’s likely more reliable, says that Green was simply trying to come up with a way to make his soda fountain stand out from others at the exhibition. He stumbled upon his ice cream soda idea while observing people enjoying ice cream with a glass of plain water at a local confectionery. Wondering why no one had ever thought to combine carbonated soda water with ice cream, Green came up with 16 soda combinations to serve with vanilla ice cream at the exhibition. After a shaky first day, word spread, and the ice cream soda became a hit.

Fred Sanders

Fred Sanders of Sanders Candy in Detroit also claimed that he invented the ice cream soda when his store ran out of sweet cream. He substituted ice cream, and voilà! The ice cream soda was born. Sanders didn’t open his store until 1875, however, so we have to give Green the edge on this one.

To be fair, the sweet cream/ice cream substitution makes perfect sense—so much sense, in fact, that seems entirely feasible that two different people could have thought of it independently.

Philip Mohr

Confectioner and baker Philip Mohr's ice cream soda story starts in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1862, when a local banker asked Mohr if he could somehow make his flavored soda water a little colder. Mohr sometimes mixed his own soda water with a little bit of ice cream and thought perhaps the concoction would fit the bill for his customer. He was right—the banker loved the drink and urged Mohr to consider opening a soda fountain in the financial district of New York. Mohr declined, but the banker spread the word to all of his high-powered financial friends, and ice cream sodas were soon in demand across the country.

George Guy

Finally, there’s George Guy. Guy worked for Robert Green at his Philadelphia fountain and was preparing two separate orders—a dish of ice cream and a glass of vanilla soda water. In his haste to get the orders finished, Guy accidentally dropped the ice cream into the soda water. He was getting ready to throw it out when the customer asked for a taste. It turned out to be delicious, and thus, the ice cream soda was born. Guy moved to Seattle in 1888 and set up his own soda fountain, where he liked to tell people the story of how he invented the delicious dessert.

If getting the last word counts for anything, Green definitely wins—his will specified that “Here lies the originator of the ice cream soda” be engraved on his tombstone.

Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.


More from mental floss studios