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Epperson The ever-popular hot-weather treat known as the Popsicle™ was invented by Frank Epperson, when he was just eleven years old. Born in 1894 and raised in San Francisco, Epperson mixed a soft drink one winter night in 1905 made with soda water powder and water ­ a popular concoction at the time. He left a stirring stick in it and mistakenly left it on the porch overnight.

Epperson found the fruit-flavored substance frozen to the stick when he awoke the next morning, as temperatures had dropped to record lows during the night. Though he is said to have tasted it and shown it to his friends, he did little else with his accidental “invention” for a number of years.

More than 18 years later, in 1923, Epperson decided to apply for a patent on his “frozen ice on a stick.” He decided to call the novelty the “Eppsicle” ice pop. He also began producing the treat in several different flavors. A father by then, his children had begun referring to the Eppsicle as the Popsicle. Later he officially changed the name. That name has stuck for nearly a century.

In 1925, Epperson sold his rights to the Popsicle to the Joe Lowe Company in New York. The Popsicle gained popularity very quickly ­ first made with birch wood sticks and selling for just a nickel. Later the twin Popsicle became available. This model had two sticks so that children could share the treat. Epperson may have also invented this version, and is said to have at least inspired the creation of subsequent frozen treats such as the Fudgsicle, Creamsicle and Dreamsicle.

Consolidated Foods Corporation acquired the Popsicle brand in 1965. In 1986, U.S. operations of Popsicle Industries became part of the Gold Bond Ice Cream Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 1989, Unilever bought Gold Bond, and Popsicle became part of Unilever’s Good Humor division.

Today hundreds of millions of Popsicles are eaten in the United States each year, and there are more than thirty flavors available including grape, lemon, lime, banana, cherry and raspberry. The most popular flavor, for years and years, has been the classic orange. Many brands have jumped in on the Popsicle concept, with competing offerings from supermarket chains and from major frozen novelty specialists such as Breyers, Dole and Tropicana. Whenever you satisfy your summer Popsicle craving, you’ve got Epperson to thank.

[August 2004]

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