Supposedly the Popsicle was invented in Oakland by an 11 year old named Frank Epperson in 1905. The story goes that he accidentally invented them by mixing sugary soda powder with water and then accidentally put sticks in them and then accidentally left them outside and then they accidentally froze over night. Then he went around to his Oakland neighbors and sold the icy ice cold fozen super cold, must be kept cold treat. And from that day on his business was born. He called his invention the Epsicle and in 1923, when he was 29, decided to expand his business beyond his neighborhood.
I think it’s time to debunk this weird story. I know you’re like, “Sunde, who cares how the Popsicle was invented?” But I think it’s important to question nonsense that’s spewed out by Wikipedia, newspapers and magazines as fact, no matter what the topic. No media outlet should just regurgitate a story over and over again when it just doesn’t make any sense.
I am currently obsessed with Popsicles and cream pops so, just out of curiosity I Googled who invented it and came up with this totally implausible story. Let me break it down for you since Wikipedia, Country Living Magazine, NPR and a ton of other media platforms are refusing to use common sense about this story.
- Myth: It was cold enough in Oakland California to freeze solid a sugary drink left outside over night.
Fact: The average low temperature in Oakland in the middle of winter is 51 degrees. Maybe on a very cold night in the Oakland hills there will be a thin sheet of ice over puddles and frost on the grass. But that is not enough to freeze solid some juice, much less keep it frozen.
- Myth: He just happened to put sticks in his juice concoction
Fact: Popsicle sticks weren’t invented yet since there were no popsicles. Probably there were lollipop sticks but would an 11 year old in 1905 just have those lying around? What kind of sticks did he use? Dirty sticks lying around his yard? Maybe, I guess, if you say so NPR.
- Myth: He began making enough popsicles to sell to his neighbors door to door.
Fact: The refrigerator was not invented until 1923. Before that people used ice boxes that were cabinets with ice kept inside to keep things just cool enough to not rot. Regular, every day people didn’t even have access to a refrigerator with a separate freezer compartment that was large enough to put popsicles in until 1940.
How did young Frank produce enough popsicles to sell, much less keep his popsicles from melting as he wandered door to door in California in the early 1900’s trying to sell them?
Here’s an actual fact. In 1924 Frank Epperson applied for, and was granted a patent for his “frozen confection of attractive appearance, which can conveniently be consumed without contamination by the hand” so I’m not trying to take away from his legacy. He did invent the Popsicle, he did have a company that made Popsicles and it was his kids that urged him to change the name from the Epsicle to the Popsicle.
In 1925, struggling financially, Epperson sold his rights to the Popsicle to the Joe Lowe Company which went on to make a great success of his patented frozen treat. Consolidated Foods acquired the brand in 1965 and it is currently owned by Unilever’s Good Humor division.
I don’t know why some unbelievable story about the Popsicle’s invention exists. I guess every marketer out there thinks there should always be a charming, aw shucks story behind every brand. But I would argue that the Popsicle is such a wonderful invention that it should stand on its own merit and be celebrated just as it is, refreshing deliciousness on a stick.