In England, it’s an ice lolly. To New Zealanders, they’re icy poles and the Irish call them freeze pops. Here in the United States, we call them Popsicles® or ice pops and this delicious treat is currently undergoing a much-deserved resurgence in popularity. Popsicle stands from San Francisco to New York serve up exotic flavors like avocado, mango chili, and mojito. Believe it or not, the mind behind this summer indulgence wasn’t a marketing honcho, or even a chef – it was an 11-year-old boy.
However, frozen desserts were around long before that part of our story begins. Ancient Roman slaves were sent up into the mountains to retrieve blocks of ice for their masters, which were then crushed and served with fruit and spice syrups. Marco Polo himself enjoyed sorbets and ices when he traveled to the Chinese court of Kublai Khan. And in the early history of the United States, Thomas Jefferson entertained many visitors to Monticello with iced sorbets and freezes.
Of course, none of these delicacies had a handle, an invention credited to young Frank Epperson. Frank was just a boy in 1905 in Oakland, California, when one night he accidentally left a glass – filled with water, powdered soda mix and a wooden stick for stirring – outside overnight. When young Frank found the glass in the morning, the soda mixture was frozen solid, so he ran the glass under hot water and removed the ice pop using the stick as a handle. Frank knew he had a great idea on his hands, and he kept making the pops for his friends, and when he became an adult he made them for his own children. In 1923, Epperson filed for a patent for his invention. Up until then, he had been calling the frozen treats “Eppsicles,” but his children insisted on calling them “Pop’s ‘sicles.” The latter name stuck and the Popsicle was born.
The frozen treat was an immediate success. In the early 1920s, an estimated 8,000 Popsicles were sold in one day at Brooklyn’s Coney Island amusement park. The first Popsicles sold for just five cents and came in seven flavors (including cherry, which is still the most popular Popsicle). Just a few years after the dessert debuted, the double-stick Popsicle was introduced. It was at the height of the Depression, and the single pop with two sticks allowed two hungry children to share a pop easily, for the same price as a single.