Food history: Popsicles

In honor of summer fun, let’s check out the history of Popsicles.

The real, true Popsicle made its debut in 1905, but frozen ice treats were around long before that.

Ancient Romans crushed large blocks of ice and served them with fruit and spice syrups; the Chinese did the same thing. Frozen ices and similar desserts were served during the 1300s in China, then later on in Turkey, Persia, Arabia, and India

These frozen delicacies were typically enjoyed by the wealthy. By the 19th century, Popsicle-like sweets were being sold for a penny each in Paris, London, and New York City.

The Popsicle as we know it was officially invented in 1905 – by accident.

Eleven-year-old Frank Epperson of San Francisco had prepared a mix of powdered soda and water for a soft drink. Forgetting about the concoction, he left it out on his porch complete with a stirring stick. After a cold night, Epperson found in the morning a frozen delight.

Epperson dubbed his creation the “epsicle.” He shared his new invention with friends at school, and later on in life, with his own children – they called it “Pop’s ‘sicle.”

In 1923, at the age of 30, Epperson changed the name to “Popsicle” and patented the frozen treat. He debuted the Popsicle at an Alameda, California park. Just a few years later, he sold the rights to the Joe Lowe Company of New York.

Shortly after the Popsicle was introduced to the world, the double-stick Popsicle came out – this was during the Great Depression. In a way to allow moms to save money, the double-stick Popsicle was sold for the same price as the singles. Decades later in 1986 the double-stick was discontinued, although other companies still produce them.

Speaking of which, there are other businesses who make Popsicle-like frozen treats, but Popsicle is a specific brand name. Much like how we call all tissues “Kleenex,” all flavored ice on a stick is generally considered to be a Popsicle.

However, Unilever, who now possess Popsicle brand, will not hesitate to remind other ice pop companies who really owns the Popsicle name. In the fine print on the Popsicle website they say, “Popsicle is a registered trademark of Unilever and is NOT a name for just any frozen pop on a stick. . .Appropriate generic terminology for frozen pops on a stick include the terms ‘pop(s),’ ‘ice pops,’ and ‘freezer pops.'”

Cherry has always been the most popular Popsicle flavor (it’s my personal favorite, too).

Try making your own “ice pops” at home, and experiment with an infinite number of flavors. Here are just a few ideas:

3 thoughts on “Food history: Popsicles

    1. Frank Epperson? He grew up in San Francisco, as mentioned here – at the time he accidentally invented the Popsicle – and then it looks like he moved to nearby Oakland for the remainder of his life.

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