Cold Wars: Popsicle v. Good Humor

Roller Exhibit # 3 "Popsicle - A Drink on a Stick" ARC ID 5916727

Today’s “What’s Cooking Wednesday” guest post is from Jefferson Moak, an archivist at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

On a hot summer day, who’s not looking for an ice cream vendor or a Rita’s Water . . . Ice? Ice creams and water ices have been with Americans for over 100 years. In the early 1920s, two men, Frank Epperson and Harry Burt, separately patented what would become famous as the Popsicle and the Good Humor Bar.

The Popsicle is what would be called a sherbet or water ice on a stick; the Good Humor Bar was an ice cream bar covered with chocolate on a stick. Both were instantly successful, as was the Eskimo Pie, patented about the same time. As one reviewer of the Eskimo Pie stated: “although nobody knew it until it happened, it seems that everybody in these United States was waiting for someone to come along and invent a bar of ice cream coated with sweet chocolate.”

The instant success of both the Popsicle and the Good Humor Bar eventually led to a series of courtroom battles regarding the validity of both patents as both Epperson and Burt claimed invention of an ice convention on a stick. What emerged from the first round of battles was an agreement by both parties to divide the market: water ices on a stick would be manufactured and marketed by the Popsicle Corporation; ice cream on a stick would be the province of the Good Humor Corporation. Peace reigned within the ice cream market for a time.

Roller Exhibit # 9 "Good Humor" Ice Cream Suckers (ARC 5916723)

A new courtroom battle occurred in 1932. The Popsicle Corporation was manufacturing and offering a “Milk Popsicle” that featured a low butter-fat product—probably what would be called an “ice milk” today. As the agreement between the two companies divided the market between milk and non-milk products, the Good Humor Corporation charged the Popsicle Corporation with intentionally crossing that line.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on 20 February 1932. Testimony was taken and many exhibits for both sides produced, among which are those illustrated here. After hearing all of the testimony, the judge ruled for the Good Humor Corporation and his judgment was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Ironically, today both the Good Humor Bar and the Popsicle are owned and manufactured by the same company, Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream.

Records of the U.S. District Court, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Equity Case File # 953
ARC ID 5916721

You can read more about the history of frozen treats in this Prologue article.

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