The Invention of the Eskimo Pie

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• Original Agreement Between Nelson and Stover
Picture of Nelson's "Eskimo Machine"

The Eskimo Pie was the result of an observant boy whose friend couldn't make up his mind.

Christian K. Nelson and a friend went to the corner drugstore, where his friend debated between ice cream and a chocolate bar before finally deciding to go with the ice cream. When Nelson asked his friend why he didn't buy both, the boy replied that he had money for only one of the two. Young Christian took that question-and-answer question to heart and worked for weeks perfecting what he hoped was something that would no longer force chocolate and ice cream lovers to choose between the two.

Nelson tried and tried, mixing different amounts of ingredients, until he finally tried cocoa butter, which worked. This was in 1920, when Nelson was 27. He made 500 of his own creation and called them "I-Scream" Bars, as a play on the words ice cream. He sold them all at a local charity function and decided to find a company to make them on a larger scale.

One year later, he had his partner, Russel C. Stover, already an established candy maker by this time. The two signed an agreement to split evenly any profits made on the sale of what would be called the "Eskimo Pie." They started out by advertising the new product in Des Moines, Iowa. They sold 250,000 pies in 24 hours.

Nelson and Stover sold the manufacturing rights to ice cream companies as well, provided that they agreed to make the Eskimo Pie according to Nelson's original recipe. By 1922, a total of 2,700 companies were selling the fun ice cream treats, at a total rate of 1 million a day.

The Eskimo Pie is still around today, a testament to the vision of Christian K. Nelson more than 80 years ago.

Graphics courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White