Frozen desserts have been enjoyed for millennia. Ancient Roman slaves were sent up into the mountains to retrieve blocks of ice, to be crushed and served with fruit and spice syrups. Medieval Venetial explorer Marco Polo 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.
Fast forward to 1905, when an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson of Oakland, California had an accidental epiphany after he inadvertently 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, who knew he'd stumbled across a great idea, 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, especially after Epperson partnered with the Joe Lowe Co., which helped to distribute them at entertainment sites like 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).
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.