This weekend, I began reading a cute albeit incomplete history of ice cream written by Laura Weiss. Its section on the development of the sundae as a particularly American phenomenon was brief, confirming my suspicion that more research is warranted in this area, but Weiss did include a mention and recipe of a sundae dating back to 1918: The Over the Top.
Two things immediately strike me regarding its origins. First, the date (1918) marks the conclusion of World War I. Were American giddy from their recent victory feeling deserving of a decadent, over-the-top treat?
Second, the site of invention: Detroit, Michigan. At the turn of the century, Detroit was already an industrial center, but not, however, the country's leading center of maple syrup production. Thus, there is much more to this story regarding the sundae's signature ingredient, which is...exciting!
Thanks to my Mainer in-laws, we have a steady supply of real maple syrup delivered to our house, so that component was on hand. Whipped cream? Yes albeit in the form of Cool Whip (don't judge too harshly). Vanilla ice cream? No, but vanilla frozen yogurt would have to do.