David Strickler was just a 23-year-old pharmacist’s apprentice in 1904 when he invented the world’s most beloved sundae: the banana split.
Before advances in commercial refrigeration, your local pharmacy would also double as an ice cream parlor and soda fountain. A young pharmacist-in-training at Tassel Pharmacy, Strickler enjoyed inventing new sundaes, which were popular among the students from nearby St. Vincent College.
His pièce de résistance was three scoops of ice cream (vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate) nestled between a banana sliced lengthwise and topped with pineapple, chocolate and strawberry sauces, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a maraschino cherry. The banana split, as it came to be known, cost 10 cents—double the price of the pharmacy’s other sundaes.
The popularity of the banana split spread like wildfire, and other pharmacies have laid claim to its invention over the years. However, records indicate that Strickler was the first to create the classic dessert. The National Association of Ice Cream Retailers acknowledged Latrobe as the birthplace of the banana split in 2004, and in 2013 the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission placed a plaque at the former site of Strickler’s pharmacy. It was joined by a gigantic banana split statue a few years later, which marks the center of activities during Latrobe’s annual Great American Banana Split Celebration.
- Pennsylvania Historical Society