In the early 1900s, a young boy from San Francisco Bay Area named Frank Epperson accidentally stumbled upon a delicious summertime treat that would go on to become an iconic frozen dessert.
One cold night, he mixed sugar soda powder with water and left it outside. The next morning, he discovered that the mixture had frozen, and he licked it off the wooden stirrer.
He named it the Epsicle, after his name and the word icicle. He started selling it in his neighborhood and eventually expanded sales to Neptune Beach, a nearby amusement park.
Epperson applied for a patent for his frozen confection in 1924, and it was granted. He recommended the best wood for the stick, including wood bass, birch, and poplar.
His children later convinced him to change the name to “Popsicle,” and the rest is history.
Although Epperson sold the rights to his creation to the Joe Lowe Co. in the 1920s, the Popsicle went on to achieve national success during the Great Depression. The two-stick version was introduced to help consumers stretch their dollars.
However, the Popsicle faced competition from Good Humor, which had recently debuted its own chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick, and Lowe was sued for copyright infringement. The court’s compromise allowed Popsicle to sell water-based treats, and Good Humor could sell ice cream pops.
Unilever acquired the Popsicle brand in 1989, expanding the brand beyond its original fruity flavors and ending the feud between the two icy competitors. Today, over 2 billion Popsicles are sold each year.
Despite the success of his invention, Epperson sold the rights to his creation and regretted it. He died in 1983 and is buried in Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. His story lives on in various forms, from the official Popsicle website to a Christian self-help book about trusting in God’s grand plan for your life.
The Popsicle has become an iconic frozen dessert, and Epperson’s invention continues to bring joy to people of all ages.