When the weather gets hot, the treats get cool. And nothing is cooler than a nice, refreshing popsicle. Sure, there’s something to be said for cooling off with a melty scoop of ice cream or staying chill with a massive, neon sno-cone. But it really doesn’t get better than going to town on a popsicle as it drips down your arm and stains your mouth. But who do we have to thank for these icy inventions? Cool your jets and kick back, as we delve into popsicle history.
Who invented popsicles?
Popsicles were invented accidentally in 1905 by an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson. Now, to be honest, Frank’s story may be a little apocryphal. No one can really back Frank’s story up. But it’s the official origin that the Popsicle brand has put out there, and even though there have been icy treats for centuries, it’s a good story so we all kind of accept it. The story goes that young Frank Epperson of Oakland, California, was goofing around outside, playing with some sugary soda powder, water, and a stirring stick. He was called inside and left his concoction out. It grew unusually cold that night, and when he came out the next morning, he saw that his treat was frozen solid. He did what anyone would do if they left flavored water outside until it froze, and began to lick it. It was delicious. He named his new invention an Epsicle, a combination of his last name and the word icicle. That’s why we call them Epsicles until this very day.
Wait no, we don’t call them that. There’s got to be more to popsicle history. Lil’ Frank got into the entrepreneurial spirit and sold his proto-popsicles around the neighborhood. In 1923, slightly larger Frank set up shop at Neptune Beach, a nearby amusement park. The snack was a hit and the next year, Frank applied for a patent. The patent was for “frozen confection of attractive appearance, which can be conveniently consumed without contamination by contact with the hand and without the need for a plate, spoon, fork or other implement.” As Frank grew older, he got the nickname Pop, and the Epsicles were referred to as Pop’s sicles, or popsicles. And that’s the name that stuck. The Popsicle brand was founded. (There are also stories that back in the day popsicles were made in test tubes. When the frozen delicacies were pulled out of the tube, they’d make a popping sound.)
But not all of the popsicle’s history is rosy. Just a few years after filing his patent, Frank was broke. So he sold the rights to Joe Lowe Co. It was that company that made popsicles a nationwide sensation. They had a big hit with their five cent double popsicles. It was a good cheap treat during the Great Depression.
The new Popsicle brand had many competitors and sued the pants off of them. Popsicle reached a compromise with Good Humor in which Popsicle could sell water-based products and Good Humor could sell ice-cream pops. Of course, they continued to fight for the next several decades. Eventually, in 1989, Unilever (owner of Good Humor) ended the feud when they bought Popsicle. Frank Epperson passed away in 1983. As far as we know, he was not cryogenically frozen.