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Eskimo Pie Gets Warm Reception at History Museum

July 12, 1996 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Eskimo Pie got itself enshrined Friday as a frosty slice of American history.

In honor of the occasion, thousands of the ice cream bars were handed out on the terrace of the National Museum of American History on an unseasonably cool July morning. Presiding was David Clark, who described himself as chairman and CEO _ ``chief eating officer″ _ of Eskimo Pie Corp. of Richmond, Va.

Inside the museum, he signed over a gift of documents and artifacts from the ice cream industry to John Fleckner, the museum’s senior archivist.

``It’s only the tip of the iceberg,″ said Fleckner, nodding toward a sample of the donation. ``We get 15 cubic feet of this″ from the company.

On display was a small machine, built 75 years ago, which dipped the vanilla ice cream in hot bitter chocolate and wrapped it in tin foil. The pies sold for a nickel. The current price for the confection, larger and mounted on a stick, is about 50 cents.

Iced sweets date to ancient Egypt or Babylon, and Marco Polo brought recipes for water ices from the Orient 700 years ago. But David H. Shayt of the museum’s Division of Cultural History told reporters that Americans were the first to package and sell ice cream on a big scale, turning an exotic dish for the rich into an everyday treat.

``It’s one of the developments of mass consumption that have made us into the rich nation that we are now,″ Fleckner said.

Clark said his company lost its patent in 1928, when a European document appeared that described a similar process from an earlier date than the American product. Now there are local ``eskimos″ in many countries, as far away as Japan and Australia, he said.

A small exhibit, ``America’s Romance With Ice Cream,″ continues at the museum through Aug. 4.