A Brief History of the Snow Cone

Rose Truesdale

Winding Staircase


Ah, the snow cone. Nothing says summer like a dewy paper cone full of sweet, kaleidoscopic ice shavings… right? Right. But how did this prismatic treat come to be?


The snow cone, like the majority of our delightfully weird Americana, officially originated at a state fair — specifically, the 1919 Texas State Fair, where Dallas resident Samuel Bert, a.k.a. King Sammie, peddled his flavored crushed ice. In 1920, King Sammie patented his ice crushing machine, and by the early 1950’s his state fair booth was selling about 1 million cones annually.


King Sammie’s frozen empire, however, may have never come to frozen fruition were it not for the 1850’s American Industrial Revolution, which finally made ice commercially available. For the first time, ice houses in New York could transport ice to Florida and Louisiana. On the way there, ice wagons passed through Baltimore, where resourceful moms figured out how to flavor shaved ice snowballs with eggs, vanilla, and sugar to beat the heat with a sweet treat on the cheap (pretty proud of myself for that one).


Less expensive to produce than ice cream, the popularity of snowballs, well, snowballed during The Great Depression, and World War II, and variations on the icy theme became ubiquitous across the globe, e.g. Hawaiian shave ice, Mexican raspa, Malaysian ais kacang, Italian granita, and Japanese kakigori. As for our favorite spin… adult snow cones made with frozen cosmos and rosé are officially a thing. Grab a cone before the opportunity melts away.