Ice cream is loved by people of all ages all over the world. It was introduced into the United States from Europe and probably evolved from iced beverages and water ices that were popular in earlier periods. The Chinese are often credited with inventing the earliest predecessor of modern ice cream, but frozen desserts were enjoyed in ancient times by other civilizations as well. By the late 1600s, however, ices and sherbets were popular items at outdoor Paris cafes.
It was not until the invention of mechanical refrigeration, though, that widespread distribution of the treat became feasible, thus the first wholesale ice cream industry was not established until 1851, when it was founded in Baltimore, Maryland by Jacob Fussell. Early plants were also established in St. Louis, New York, Washington, Chicago, and Cincinnati.
Danish immigrant to America, Christian K. Nelson, a schoolteacher and candy store owner, claimed to have received the inspiration for the Eskimo Pie chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar in 1920 (in Iowa) when a boy in his store was unable to decide whether to spend his money on ice cream or a chocolate bar. After experimenting with different ways to adhere melted chocolate to bricks of ice cream, Nelson began selling his invention under the name "I-Scream Bars." An instant success, trade magazines raved about it. One retailer declared that "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."
In 1921, he filed for a patent, and secured an agreement with chocolate manufacturer Russell Stover to mass-produce the Eskimo Pie chocolate-covered ice cream bars under the new trademarked name "Eskimo Pie." After patent was issued in 1922, Nelson franchised the product, allowing ice cream manufacturers to produce them under that name. The patent was invalidated in 1929. Stover sold his share of the business. Nelson became independently wealthy off the royalties from the sale of Eskimo Pies. Eskimo Pie became a subsidiary of United States Foil Company, the supplier of the Eskimo Pie wrapper. In 1925, dry ice was invented. Nelson was eager to find a way to make buying Eskimo Pie chocolate-covered ice cream as easy as buying another snack from a vendor. Nelson began to market thermal jugs with dry ice supplied with Eskimo Pies to vendors without access to a freezer. This increased visibility and distribution and made Eskimo Pie an "impulse" item.
In 1992, Eskimo Pie became independent of Reynolds' Metals. The company continues to market dozens of shapes, sizes, and types of frozen treats. The brand name Eskimo Pie continues to have strong consumer recognition and has appeared in cartoons, movies, and in Funk and Wagnall's Dictionary.
An Eskimo Pie does not really look like a pie at all. You can buy an Eskimo Pie chocolate-covered ice cream bar at any ice cream shop if you want to find out what it looks and tastes like.