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How a Distracted 11-Year-Old Invented the Popsicle

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Getty

If you’ve been beating the heat this summer by enjoying a flavored ice pop or two, you’re certainly not alone: More than two billion Popsicles are sold every year—and it’s all thanks to an easily distracted 11-year-old boy.

As the official Popsicle story goes, in 1905, young Frank Epperson of San Francisco was using a stirring stick to dissolve powdered drink mix into water when something else caught his attention. He ran off, forgetting the concoction on his porch. It was a particularly chilly night, and when Epperson rediscovered the drink in the morning, it was a frozen mass of flavor with a convenient stirring stick handle protruding from it.

Skeptics aren’t so sure that it really happened that way, saying that temps in San Francisco simply didn’t drop low enough to freeze anything back in 1905. But even if it’s just a good PR story, there is a nugget of truth: Epperson did, indeed, invent the Popsicle. After years of making the frozen treats for friends, and eventually his own children, Epperson filed for a patent in 1923. Though he had been calling his creations “Eppsicles,” he changed the name for the patent because his children always asked for “Pop’s sicles.”

“Popsicle” is a trademarked name, by the way—and because it’s well on its way to becoming a genericized trademark, Unilever vigorously defends it. People’s Popsicles, a Brooklyn business that makes artisanal ice pops with seasonal fruit, found this out the hard way in 2010. After a threatening cease-and-desist from Unilever, the company changed its name to “People’s Pops.”

Unfortunately, Epperson and his family aren't the ones benefiting from the brand name these days. After taking a hit in the stock market crash of 1929, Frank Epperson sold the patent. "I was flat broke and had to liquidate all my assets," he later said. "I haven't been the same since."

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TASCHEN
Everything You Need to Know About Food in One Book
TASCHEN
TASCHEN

If you find yourself mixing up nigiri and sashimi at sushi restaurants or don’t know which fruits are in season, then this is the book for you. Food & Drink Infographics, published by TASCHEN, is a colorful and comprehensive guide to all things food and drink.

The book combines tips and tricks with historical context about the ways in which different civilizations illustrated and documented the foods they ate, as well as how humans went from hunter-gatherers to modern-day epicureans. As for the infographics, there’s a helpful graphic explaining the number of servings provided by different cake sizes, a heat index of various chilies, a chart of cheeses, and a guide to Italian cold cuts, among other delectable charts.

The 480-page coffee table book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $56, is written in three languages: English, French, and German. The infographics themselves come from various sources, and the text is provided by Simone Klabin, a New York City-based writer and lecturer on film, art, culture, and children’s media.

Keep scrolling to see a few of the infographics featured in the book.

An infographic about cheese
TASCHEN

An infographic about cakes
Courtesy of TASCHEN

An infographic about fruits in season
Courtesy of TASCHEN

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