[Ads-l] slight antedating "Banana Split" and "Banana Royalle"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 27 23:06:20 UTC 2023

Barry Popik traced “banana split” to the Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Sentinel, October 9, 1905, page 6.

I found an example about two weeks earlier, in a report of the National Association of Retail Druggists held in Boston, Massachusetts from September 18-21, 1905.

[Begin Excerpt]“The Murray Co. showed a complete line of soda water flavors, so complete that they had undertaken to supply the big Puffer “Constellation” fountain in the next booth with everything used or which might be called for . . . . A ‘banana split’ was the piece de resistance of their menu.”[End Excerpt]

Pharmaceutical Era, Volume 34, Number 13, September 28, 1905, page 305.

A large percentage of early references to the dish come out of New England and the Northeast.  The Boston Globe has a couple early references to a “Banana Royalle”, which based on its description is the same thing.

[Begin Excerpt]”I made a dessert Sunday from ice cream like one I had eaten in Boston the week before.  It was called ‘banana royalle.’  Peel a banana and cut it lengthwise.  Cut the half again at the center, and put the two pieces at a saucer. Over that a slice or tablespoon of ice cream, over that some chocolate sauce, then some chopped walnuts and on top two preserved cherries. . . .”[End Excerpt]

Boston Globe, October 29, 1905, page 32.

During the next few years, the dish is referred to alternately as a banana split or a banana royalle (or royal).

There is a dispute about who invented the banana split.  Most sources refer to a guy named Strickler from Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  He claimed to have invented it in 1904.  There are holes in his story.  The store he claimed to invent it in did not even have a soda fountain until May of 1905.  His name appears in a local paper as one of their soda fountain workers, and that was still a few months before the NARD convention in Boston, so it’s not impossible that he was merely mistaken about the year.  However, he also claimed that his friend, a man named Dovey, introduced the dish outside of Latrobe when he attended medical school in Philadelphia.  But Dovey did not go to school in Philadelphia until 1907, so he couldn’t have been the one to spread the word outside of Latrobe before the convention.  And by 1907, the banana split was widely known before Dovey left home, so he couldn’t have been the one to popularize it outside of Latrobe.  Strickler was on record claiming to have invented it as early as 1933 – the claim appears in an ad for his drugstore soda fountain (he had purchased the store he had once worked in).  But the only “evidence” ever cited about him inventing it is a letter he wrote to the producers of “I’ve Got a Secret” in the 1950s, in which he was trying to get on the show as the inventor of the banana split.

A few other sources refer to a 1906 article in Soda Fountain magazine, in which a man named Stinson Thomas of “Butler’s Department Store” (actually called “Butler’s Branch”) tells his story about inventing the banana split.  I have not seen the original article, so I don’t know exactly what it says, and the few places that refer to the article do not give a full explanation of what’s in it.  I have seen some snippets of a quotes from that article on google books (in a book called, , but they don’t show when or where he says he first served it.  The snippets do suggest that he claims to have thought it up himself.

I tend to believe the Boston origin story, which is more consistent with more of the contemporary references.  I haven’t been able to find the original article in Soda Fountain magazine – HathiTrust only has that magazine from a much later date.

The banana split may have been the first time someone put ice cream over split bananas, but not the first time split bananas were sold.  An article out of Buffalo, New York (Buffalo Enquirer, July 12, 1897, page 3) in 1897 describes an “entirely new dessert,” something called a “Bananas a la Crème,” in which split bananas have strawberry flavored whipped cream over them.

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