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Q: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
Category: Family and Home > Food and Cooking
Asked by: apteryx-ga
List Price: $10.17
Posted: 01 Jan 2004 16:16 PST
Expires: 31 Jan 2004 16:16 PST
Question ID: 292168
Okay, guys, you might think this is a frivolous one, but it's SERIOUS.
 It's serious because today is the day that I transfer all recurring
dates and commemorative events to the new official household calendar,
which hangs in the kitchen.  If it ain't on the kitchen calendar, it
ain't happenin'.

One of those dates, a somewhat idiosyncratic observance, I'll admit,
is August 17th, which I record as follows:  "1892:  D. Duncan born,
inventor of Eskimo Pie."  My family celebrates that summer event in
what I'm sure you'd regard as the most appropriate way.

Now, I tried once to verify that bit of history, which came from some
forgotten source many years ago, with some online research through
G**gle.  What I found is that several people are credited with
inventing the Eskimo Pie and that reliable information about its
origin and patenting and so on is rather hard to pin down.  So I am
turning to the aces at GA to get to the bottom of the mystery so I can
record accurate information on my household's master calendar. 
Because if it's on the kitchen calendar, it's for real.

Here's what I want to know:

- Who really invented the Eskimo Pie--that is, the chocolate-dipped
vanilla ice cream bar on a stick (what the kids in my childhood
neighborhood in N.E. invariably called a "chocolate covered")?  This
might be a separate question from who patented it and who holds the
trademark on the name.  I want the closest thing to proof or
corroboration that we can get online; a simple assertion won't
do--that would be no better than the conflicting claims I found on my

- What, if anything, was D. Duncan's role in it?  Mr. Duncan is, of
course, much better known for his invention of the yo-yo, but he has a
number of original creations to his credit, and there's at least some
evidence that this is one of them.

- What is Mr. Duncan's full name, and is August 17, 1892, his real date of birth?

I am ready to face the truth.  We may still celebrate the legend
symbolically on August 17th, much as certain other famous observances
continue because of their cultural value even when their true history
turns out to vary from the myth; but I do not want to perpetuate an
actual falsehood, so let's set the record straight once and for all. 
When we bite into our frosty chocolate-covered ice cream bars next
August 17th, whose memory shall we honor?

Thank you,
Subject: Re: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 01 Jan 2004 18:57 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Apteryx-ga,

Something about your question was nagging at me.  Something was...not
right!  But I couldn't put my finger on it until late in my research,
so since I had to wait to learn what the problem was, you'll have to
wait as well.

That's just the way the world works, sometimes.

First, the esteemed Eskimo Pie.

Eskimo Pie made its appearance in 1921 and quickly became a national
sensation.  A December 22, 1921 newspaper article from the Daily
Journal in Wisconsin was almost breathless with the news of the
arrival of Eskimo Pies in the local area, a confection that "sets the
tongue a-tingle":


...Eskimo pie is a delicious confection,
the invention of which marks a new
development in the ice cream business.  It
is made of a stripe of brick ice cream wrapped
in chocolate and has the appearance
of a chocolate bar.  It retails
for 10 cents. The package is
wrapped in sanitary wax paper and
foil and is eaten from the hand much like
a cone, but in every respect is much
cleaner and more satisfactory than a 
cone which it is likely to supersede
almost altogether.


So who makes this wonderful confection, you ask..?  The article continues:


.....The Russell Stover company of Chicago
patented the process and leases
the right to use it, prescribing the
size of the package, the quantity of
cream and chocolate it is to contain, and
the price.


Fine, but WHO at Russell Stover was the man behind The Pie.  

Mr. Duncan, perhaps?


.....The inventor of this package, a
young man under 30, is named Fedderman,
who until recently was an employee of a 
candy company in Iowa and was without means. 
A friend, Russell Stover, assisted him in 
putting the goods on the market, and
since October...the two young men
have made a profit of $500,000.


Some big money for 1921 America (heck...I wouldn?t mind having it
now!).  Surely, there's a paper trail at the patent office for such a
notable innovation.  Maybe Duncan is the man behind the curtain,
somehow.  Alas, the patents reveal neither Duncan nor Fedderman:


Patent # 1404539
Granted:  January 24, 1922



Application filed December 23,1921.

Be it known that CHRISTIAN K NELSON, a citizen of the United States,-
residing at Onawa., in the county of Monona. and State of Iowa, has
invented certain new and useful Improvements in Confections; and he
does hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact
description of the invention, such as will enable others skilled in
the art to which it appertains to make and use the same.

The present invention relates to confectionery and has for its object
the production of a commercially practical coated brick or block of
ice cream or the like.  It is the primary object of the invention to
ide [sic!] a frozen dainty comprising...a block or brick of ice cream
or the like also to provide an encasement therefor which facilitates
its ready handling.


Was there ever a less appealing description of an Eskimo Pie!!!
(except, perhaps, for that bit about a ?frozen dainty?).

So what we appear to know is that the Eskimo Pie came on the scene in
1921, and was the creation of Mssrs. Stover, Fedderman, and Nelson.

A check on the website for Eskimo Pie (now owned by CoolBrands
International) confirms the date: 

In 1921, Eskimo Pie invented the chocolate-coated ice cream bar and
created the frozen novelty industry. Since then, there have been many
imitators, but only one genuine Eskimo Pie. Today Eskimo Pie remains
one of the best known, best loved and most widely distributed frozen
novelty brands.


Could it be that Duncan had nothing whatsoever to do with Eskimo Pies?
 A check of the biographical literature on Duncan showed him to be a
most prodigous inventor and marketer.  He not only introduced the
Yo-Yo that bears his name, but also had a hand in Brach's candy
business, hydraulic automobile brakes, and parking meters.

Ice cream?

His biographers note:


Duncan, Donald Franklin (June 6, 1891 - May 15, 1971), merchandiser,
was born in Rome, Ohio, the first of two sons born to James Duncan and
Ann Virginia McCaffry...Duncan...went to work as a consultant for a
fledgling ice cream company that was manufacturing a product called
"ice cream on a stick." He developed a whole new marketing plan for
the company, which included sending vendors out on bicycles. He also
gave the company its new name, Good Humor. He introduced the idea of
franchises by allowing ice cream makers to buy a license to
manufacture Good Humor ice cream products.


Good Humor!  Ice cream on a stick!

That's the problem with your question!  You asked:

"Who really invented the Eskimo Pie--that is, the chocolate-dipped
vanilla ice cream bar on a stick..."

But Eskimo Pies don't come on a stick.  They're just a big block of
chocolate-covered ice cream, and if you remove the entire wrapper to
hold it, your fingers inevitably get covered in chocolate goo, because
there's no stick.

No stick!

(Don't get fooled.  Some of their modern-day products DO have a stick.
 But the real deal Eskimo Pie is 100% stick-free).


Donald Duncan = Good Humor ice-cream-on-a-stick

Russel Stover/Fedderman/Christian Nelson = Eskimo Pie

That's my answer.  Hope it suits.

And of course....Happy New Year.  ?Fraid you?ll have to celebrate
August 17th  on June 6th this year!




--Newspapers searched at 

--Patents searched at Lexis-Nexis via library access. (Note...I
searched trademarks as well for Eskimo Pie, and confirmed the 1921
date, but there was no other additional information of note).

--Biographical data on Duncan from library access to the Dictionary of
American Biography.

--Google search of "Eskimo Pie" 1921

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 01 Jan 2004 20:15 PST
Oooh, Apteryx.  I can almost hear your heart breaking just a bit
there.  Sorry for delivering the news, but thanks for the kind rating. just so happens that August 17th (not 1892, though) was the
date of my know.  I can't really say
it here, but if you want to go ahead and commerate it, that's
absolutely kopasetic with me.
apteryx-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Alas (sigh), the way of the world is hard at times.  Our public
calendars forfeit their treasured holidays and traditions to political
pressures, and our culture loses its anchors of identity when
well-meaning history launderers consider only one dimension of our
collective myths.  And we at my house must let go our notion of Mr. D.
Duncan as hero of the Eskimo Pie, most suitable for consumption on his
incorrectly recorded date of birth.

I *do* know that something labeled "Eskimo Pies" is sold in foil boxes
in our supermarket freezer, with sticks, looking and tasting exactly
like the "chocolate covereds" of my youth.  So I don't have to give
that idea up entirely.  But the rest--debunked.  I commend you,
pafalafa, for your assiduous search, and thank you for your verified
results so dramatically delivered, but I do feel a bit let down all
the same, through no fault of yours.

Can it be that *anything* happened on August 17th to which we could
still raise our ice cream bars on sticks in tribute?


Subject: Re: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
From: hlabadie-ga on 01 Jan 2004 20:26 PST
Unfortunately, Nelson lost his patent when a court decision by the
Court of Appeals was handed down in 1929, to the effect that his
product had a "lack of invention," and was merely a differently shaped
covered ice cream novelty, which copied an earlier invention that was
ice cream covered in cocoa butter and dipped in chocolate.


So, Nelson is officially not the inventor of the Eskimo Pie, which, by
the way, was originally called the I-Scream-Bar.

Subject: Re: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
From: hlabadie-ga on 01 Jan 2004 20:46 PST
Curiously, West Virginia also lays claim to Donald F. Duncan.

Born in Huntington, Cabell County. (Named for an ancestor of Virginia
author James Branch Cabell.)

Subject: Re: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 01 Jan 2004 21:08 PST
>> Can it be that *anything* happened on August 17th to which we could
still raise our ice cream bars on sticks in tribute?

Here's a suggestion, Apteryx:

You could celebrate Mae West's birthday (August 17th) by saying "Is
that an ice cream bar on a stick, or are ya just glad to see me?"
Subject: Re: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
From: probonopublico-ga on 02 Jan 2004 00:00 PST

Me? I'd never even heard of an Eskimo Pie but that man Duncan surely
was a marketing genius and deserves some sort of honour ... and it is
New Year (Are you listening, Queenie?)

Well done everybody.
Subject: Re: Inventor of Eskimo Pies: Duncan or --?
From: jon-ga on 02 Jan 2004 03:08 PST
August 17th is my birthday, so hoorah!

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