The origins of frozen treats can be traced back to the ancient times. It is known that the ancient Romans carried blocks of ice from the mountains to chill their food and drinks in summer.
They also made frozen treats by crushing the ice and flavoring it with fruits and syrups. The Chinese stored ice and made frozen treats just like the Romans. It is said that when the Italian adventurer Marco Polo visited the Chinese court of Kublai Khan in the thirteenth century, he enjoyed some of the frozen treats made by the Chinese.
Centuries later 11-year-old boy would accidentally invent one of the most popular frozen treats of the modern age – the popsicle.
In 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson from San Francisco, California, accidentally invented the Popsicle. It was a chilly evening when he decided to make himself a soft drink. He mixed soda powder and water with a wooden stirring stick but somehow forgot about his drink and left it on the porch.
When he woke up the next morning and returned to the porch his drink was frozen with the wooden stir stick stuck in the frozen liquid. He ran the glass under hot water and licked the frozen treat off the wooden stir stick. He had invented a new treat and named it Epsicle.
The next summer he started selling the treat around his neighborhood for five cents a piece. As written by smartsidenews, he patented the Epsicle later in 1923 under the name frozen ice on a stick. Reportedly his children urged him to change the name of the treat since they always asked for “Pop’s sicles.”
Unfortunately, he was forced to sell his Popsicle rights the Joe Lowe Co. since he was broke and had to liquidate all his assets to stay afloat. “I was flat and had to liquidate all my assets,” he recalled years later. “I haven’t been the same since.”
The Popsicle gained more popularity, and the Joe Lowe Co. took it to national fame. They added a second stick during the Great Depression making it even more popular than before. Reportedly around 8,000 Popsicles were sold in one day at Brooklyn’s Coney Island amusement park. The company even changed their name to the Popsicle Corporation.
They faced competition from Good Humor, which produced chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick and sued the Joe Lowe Company for copyright infringement. After a series of lawsuits, the court decided that the Lowe Company could sell frozen treats made from water while Good Humor could continue to sell its ice cream.
In 1989 Unilever purchased the Popsicle brand and later also Good Humor, putting an end to the feud between the two companies. Unilever now sells around 2 billion Popsicles each year.