Putting ice cream in a cone was a blend of necessity and a bit of innovation

If your company produced 1.5 billion units a year of a particular product, you’d be pleased, let alone happy that demand is probably going to stay that high, if not increase year to year.

That’s the situation of the Joy Cone Co. of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, the world’s largest baker of ice cream cones.

And while there are several claims as to who served ice cream in a cone first, the undisputable proof is that the combination was first served at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, 110 years ago this month.

The oft-told story is that an ice cream vendor ran out of dishes to serve his frozen delight and got together with a neighboring vendor who sold flat pastry-like waffles that could be rolled into a cone. It was an ideal, and tasty, way to serve ice cream.

Ice cream in a cone was invention by necessity. As is the case with food items, many new products are developed by blending one preparation with another to discover a great-tasting dish.

But when you come to think of it, how many food items actually function with one part serving as a holder for the other, with both parts being edible? Maybe a bread bowl, but ice cream in a cone has to be a front runner.

Any way you dip into it, ice cream in a cone is an example of business ingenuity that turned a fortunate combo into an effort that produces more than a billion cones a year.

Be sure to read this issue’s Uniquely St. Louis for the scoop on the launch of the ice cream cone.

Speaking of innovative efforts, that and summer vacation reminds me of my young efforts to be an inventor. Some friends of mine said if we had sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal, we could make gunpowder. Well, I didn’t know much about gunpowder except that it was in firecrackers — and they were fun.

No matter how hard I tried, however, I couldn’t mix it up to match the silver color of the mixture found in firecrackers. It kept coming up a shade of green. So I threw all my rejected batches into a coffee can.

Sometime later, I found myself working on some other kind of experiment which involved heating a mixture with an alcohol lamp. Something got too hot and began sparking. The sparks, as you can guess, found their way into the coffee can full of reject gunpowder that was stupidly sitting next to my experiment-in-progress.

The concoction started smoldering, then smoking, and it was getting scary. I ran across the room, got some water in a bucket and doused it out. Whew! A disaster averted.

As luck would have it, nobody found out about this near disaster. Of course, now every reader knows! Nevertheless, I lost interest in chemistry experiments after that, but I have always remembered my days as a would-be inventor.