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Thank the St. Louis World’s Fair For Some of Your Favorite Foods

1900s | February 20, 2019

Saint Louis World's Fair St. Louis 1904. Visitors in front of the Government building at the exhibition area. (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

In 1904, the eyes of the world were on St. Louis for the seven-month long St. Louis World’s Fair. While many visitors came to the event for the entertainment, culture, and architecture, most people left with a list of their new favorite foods. The St. Louis World’s Fair is credited with introducing the world to many new food items that would become American icons. Here are some of the new foods you probably didn’t know originated from the St. Louis World’s Fair. 

Source: (Missouri History Museum)

Ice Cream Cone

According to the popular story, a man named Arnold Fornachou was selling scoops of ice cream at his booth at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Business was booming, and soon, Fornachou ran low on the disposable paper cups in which he served his ice cream. He was reluctant to close up shop and miss out on all that potential business, then he hit on an idea. The vendor next to him, a man named Ernest Hamwi, was selling waffles. Fornachou bought a batch of waffles from Hamwi, rolled them into a cone, and added scoops of ice cream. His customers loved the portability of the new ice cream cone. 

Source: (leitesculinaria.com)

Hot Dog

The origin of the marriage of a grilled sausage link and a bread bun is up for debate, but one account links it to the St. Louis World’s Fair. In this story, a sausage seller named Antoine Feuchtwanger was hawking piping hot sausages from his booth at the fair, but customers complained that the wieners were too hot to hold. Feuchtwanger’s innovative wife suggested serving the meat in a bun. Still other stories claim that the hot dog was a creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, or even that it originated at New York’s Coney Island. 

Source: (splendidtable.org)

Iced Tea

Tea served ice cold was not entirely new in 1904, but it hadn’t gained widespread popularity until the St. Louis World’s Fair. Richard Blechynden noticed that, when it was really hot outside, few people stopped at his booth for a cup of hot tea. In hot weather, people wanted to sip on something cold. So Blechynden poured his tea over ice and offered it as iced tea, to the delight of his customers. 

Source: (foodrevolution.org)

Peanut Butter

Although George Washington Carver devoted his life to finding creative uses for peanuts, he did not invent peanut butter. That distinction goes to Marcellus Gilmore Edison of Quebec, who patented the process of making sweetened peanut paste. Around the turn of the century, a St. Louis-area business man named George Bayle started selling peanut butter as a snack food item, but sales really exploded after Bayle began selling peanut butter at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Visitors to the fair loved the unusual, flavorful spread. 

Source: (wideopencountry.com)

Dr. Pepper

The popular soft drink Dr. Pepper made its national debut at the St. Louis World’s Fair, but the beverage was actually created in 1885 by a drug store pharmacist from Waco, Texas, named Charles Alderton. Dr. Pepper, which is older than rival Coca-Cola by just one year, was only sold locally until the World’s Fair. Dr. Pepper was a hit of the fair and customers tried to guess the 23 flavors that comprised the formula. But like Coke, the formula for Dr. Pepper is a closely guarded secret. 

Source: (vox.com)

Hamburger

Like the hot dog, the creation of the hamburger is up for debate. But one thing is clear…the hamburger rose to prominence at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Several reporters covering the fair wrote about the hamburger in their accounts of the event, helping the true American classic to gain a following of fans and a legion of copy cat recipes. Like the hot dog and ice cream cone, one of the biggest benefits to the hamburger was its portability. 

Source: (Pinterest)

Cotton Candy

Believe it or not, cotton candy was created by a dentist and was originally called “Fairy Floss.” Dentist William Morrison joined forced with a candy maker, John C. Wharton, to develop a machine that spun sugar into cotton candy. Morrison and Wharton debuted their sugar invention at the St. Louis World’s Fair and it was an instant hit. A decade later, another dentist patented an improved cotton candy machine and even patented the name cotton candy. Morrison’s fairy floss that was a hit of the St. Louis World’s Fair became forever known as cotton candy. 

(recipe4living.com)

Jell-O

Pearle Bixby Wait was trying to make cough syrup in 1897 when he developed a gelatin that he trademarked as Jell-O. The gelatin was especially delicious when Wait’s wife, Mary, added fruit and sugar to it. He sold his invention to Francis Woodward of Genesee Pure Foods. It was Woodward that brought Jell-O to the St. Louis World’s Fair. While the reception to the odd, jiggly dessert was positive, Jell-O was slow to achieve widespread success. It wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that Jell-O became a household staple. 

The 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis changed the culture of eating to make way for the modern world.

Tags: food

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.