popsicles: a tasty history lesson

For today’s Adventures in Learning, we’re going to combine a history lesson with summer’s most fantastic treat! It’s going to be good for the kids’ brains and tummies.

The turn of the century was an incredible time for American inventions: the Wright Brothers flew, Ford rolled out the automobile, and Edison churned out inventions left and right. But perhaps, the greatest invention of all, at least when it comes to summer, was created by an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson.

On a chilly evening in San Francisco*, Frank used a stick to swirl together powdered mix and water to make himself a drink. He accidentally left everything out overnight and the next morning he discovered his drink had frozen solid. Brr, San Francisco!* He pulled on the stick and out came a treat. He called it the Epsicle, after himself—the inventor.

He made Epicles for his friends, which, I imagine made him quite popular in the neighborhood. Frank eventually grew up, got married, and had kids of his own. He shared his ingenious and tasty invention with his kids. I’m sure he bragged about them a bit, wouldn’t you? Naturally, they requested he make some. We want Pop’s ‘sicles! And that, my friends, is the name that stuck.

Frank started the patent process for his Popsicles in 1923 and history was made. American summers were changed forever!

Now that the kids have the history down, let them play flavor inventor and create their own unique frozen treat. You don’t need any fancy equipment, although we discovered a blender was helpful. We used small paper cups and straws cut in half to make our popsicles.

PBS has a treasure trove of recipes to work from. Here’s a quick list:

Homemade Popsicle Blueprint from Farm to Table Family
Fruit Juice Popsicles from Mister Rogers’ Recipes
Strawberry and Cream Popsicles from PBS Food

watermelon and mint popsicle
blueberry honey cream icepop

Psst, here’s a helpful tip: cover each cup with cling wrap. Then cut a small hole in the middle to stick your straw (or whatever you’re using for a handle) through. It keeps the straw straight while the liquid freezes. Meaning you won’t have a wonky handle when you go to eat your treat!

Happy inventing!

*Note: Some believe the actual birthplace of the mighty Popsicle was actually Oakland. Why? Weather records indicate the temperatures never reached freezing in San Francisco in 1905, but did in Oakland. Maybe ol’ Frank thought SF made for a better story?

P.S. If you’d like to take this lesson a step further and combine it with some reading, click here for a great list of children’s book from the 1900s compiled by What Do We Do All Day.

About Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper is the blogger behind Classic-Play.com, an online resource for creative families.  Her favorite past times include: dancing around her living room, watching the Pink Panther with her kids and daydreaming. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, photographer Dave Cooper, and two children. 

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