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The History of Popsicles
Image credit: Julia Bujalski

Discovering the Frozen Treat on a Stick

Did you know that the popsicle was invented accidentally by an 11-year-old boy? In 1905, Frank Epperson left a cup containing powdered soda mixed with water and a stirring stick out on his front porch. When the temperatures dipped overnight, the mixture froze. The next morning, Frank discovered the frozen mixture. He ran the cup under warm water and removed the frozen treat inside using the stick as a handle. Frank realized that his frozen treat on a stick was quite the discovery and began making it for his friends and selling it around the neighborhood.

What’s in a Name?

Over the years, Frank continued to make popsicles. When he was old enough to have children himself, he made the treats for them, too. In 1923, he finally decided to file for a patent for his invention. Over the years, Frank had been calling the frozen treats “Eppsicles” – a portmanteau of his last name and the word icicles.  However, Frank’s children repeatedly referred to the frozen treats as “Pop’s ‘sicles,” which later became, simply, Popsicles!

Popularizing the Pop

A few years after earning his patent, Frank Epperson was in need of money. Unfortunately, he was forced to sell his patent to the Joe Lowe Co. The company went on to make Popsicles a national success; the product quickly became a household name and gained popularity across America. The frozen treats originally cost five cents and were available in seven fruity flavors. Early ads explained the new treat to consumers using clever, descriptive taglines like “a frozen drink on a stick!” and “a frozen lollypop!” In 1939, the brand introduced a mascot called Popsicle Pete; he appeared in ads for the next five decades.

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Two-Stick Popsicles

During the height of the Great Depression, the company made a two-stick popsicle. The product was intended to increase sales at a time when consumers didn’t have much in the way of income to spend. The design was specifically created to let two children split a popsicle for the price of one. The hope was that the two-in-one design would underscore the value of purchasing the frozen treats while also helping consumers stretch their dollar. And indeed, the two-stick version was quite popular! In fact, it remained in production for decades until it was retired in 1986 on the advice of mothers who thought it was just too messy.

The Fudgsicle

After the Joe Lowe Co. acquired Popsicle, they promptly began suing competitors for patent infringement. They were famously involved in a series of lawsuits against their competitor, Good Humor. After many legal battles, it was finally determined that Good Humor could create ice cream treats while Popsicle could create water-based treats. Seeking to diversify, Popsicle shrewdly introduced an “ice milk” product in 1946. It was originally called the Fudgicle, but was later renamed the Fudgsicle. It was available in two flavors – chocolate and butterscotch. The chocolate version of this fudgy frozen treat is still available today and just as popular!

A Continued Legacy

In 1989, Unilever bought the Popsicle brand along with its longtime competitor, Good Humor. Since then, Unilever has expanded the range of flavors offered. One of the more successful lines is their range of Popsicles flavored like Jolly Ranchers! However, the most popular Popsicle flavor remains good, old-fashioned cherry. The popularity of these frozen treats hasn’t waned at all in the 21st century. In fact, over 2 billion Popsicles are sold each year! Harkening back to Frank Epperson’s original discovery, many people even make their own versions at home using a wide variety of ingredients. After all, there is nothing quite like a Popsicle on a sweltering hot summer day!

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