Leslie Knope, of Parks & Recreation fame, loves her some waffles. Yet I’m betting she wouldn’t know to thank funny-named Cornelius Swartwout (or Swarthout, depending who you ask), who has gone down in history as the breakfast-minded genius inventor of the waffle iron.
To quote the official Cornelius Swartwout website:
Be proud of your heritage! Eat waffles! The first patent for a Waffle maker was issued to Cornelius Swartwout on August 24th 1869!
You’ll agree, I’m sure, that this quote alone is enough to make a Blog of Funny Names post, but Word Count tells me I’ve yet to hit my 500-word limit, so let’s dig deeper into the waffle iron and the man that was Cornelius Swartwout.
The earliest waffle irons were not the work of Mr. Swartwout; instead, they originated in the Netherlands circa 14th century. Made of two hinged iron plates connected to two long wooden handles, the plates often imprinted elaborate fancy-pants patterns on the waffle–think coat of arms, landscapes, religious symbols, and the like. These waffle irons were held over a hearth fire for baking.
But American entrepreneurialism won out when Cornelius Swartwout patented the first U.S. waffle iron. His invention looked nothing like the slick electric models we plug in today, but its design revolutionized how waffles were made. Fashioned to sit on wood or gas stoves, the cast-iron plates were joined by a hinge that swiveled in a cast-iron collar.
Another funnily-named guy, John Kleimbach, joined the waffle party in 1891. A German immigrant living in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Kleimach hit the road as a traveling waffle salesman (what a job!) after making an iron for the Mansion House Hotel. Kliembach’s waffles are said to have been a penny each or ten cents for a dozen. Hardly surprising that he was a sensation at the Chicago World’s Fair.
If you are an extreme waffle fan, then you might already know that August 24, the day that Swartwout received his patent, is known as Cornelius Swartwout Waffle Appreciation Day. Even more amazing is the fact that this “event” has its own facebook page. Folks are already registering for the 2014 shindig, and why wouldn’t they? The invitation reads:
Celebrate the patenting of the waffle iron by Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York on August 24, 1869.
This is a day where we enjoy delicious waffles with our loved ones. So whether they are store bought, home made, or at a restaurant go get some waffles & have some fun!
Be sure to post pictures of your party. While having bacon is not required, it’s encouraged.
This is a public event, so feel free to invite anyone you want!
If this sounds like your kind of virtual party, you can register here.
Until the next installment of Funny Names in Food, I raise my fork in salute to all things waffle. Leslie Knope may not have the best judgment in leading community board meetings, etc. but she does know how to enjoy her waffles. Thank you Cornelius Swartwout for making it all possible.