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For Over a Century We Have Enjoyed The Taste of an 11 Year Old Boys Invention

by: Geoff Ficke

One cold evening in San Francisco in 1905, 11 year old Frankie Epperson went to bed, forgetting about a fruit drink he had left on the porch. When he awoke the next morning and went out onto the porch the fruit drink, with a stir stick in the cup had frozen during the unseasonable frigid night. Frankie had stumbled into what would evolve into the “popsicle”.

For 18 years Epperson did nothing with his discovery. Finally in 1923 he filed a patent for the “epsicle”, later renamed the “popsicle”. Frank Epperson subsequently sold the rights to his patent to the Joe Howe Company of New York on a royalty basis. Later, Epperson designed the double stick “popsicle” which enabled children to share the treat. His invention was the inspiration for fudgesicles, creamsicles and other frozen sweets delivered to consumers on a birch stick.

The evolution of this range of stick based frozen treats is a classic example of an initial divergent product that provided the seed for a host of convergent extensions. Frank Epperson’s original frozen fruit tasting ice, packaged on a stick was a truly novel invention. Nothing like it existed at that time. The later iterations of the “popsicle”, ice cream, sherbets and fudgesicles simply were convergent products, utilizing the novelty of Epperson’s stick to deliver the product to consumers.

Divergent products typically achieve the greatest commercial success. They are first, novel, create new product categories and often become generically accepted by consumers. Convergent, or knockoff products, also can enjoy commercial success. However, they are typically recognized as simple extensions to the uniquely crafted divergent products that were their predecessor.

Frank Epperson never fully enjoyed the commercial benefits of his invention of the “popsicle”. His tasty frozen treats have sold billions of units. The rights to the brand name and the product have been sold numerous times to various companies and conglomerates. Mr. Epperson died in 1983. He lived a very mundane life, never enjoying the riches his invention provided for others.

Nevertheless, a very aware 11 year old boy, never forgot an accidental confluence of taste, form and nature and provided the world with one of life’s simplest pleasures; the “popsicle”. His invention is an example that age has no bearing on creativity. Entrepreneurs are grown in every stripe, creed, gender and color. Inventiveness knows no boundaries.