Eskimo Pie: A Famous Iowa-made Product

Christian Nelson of Onawa, Iowa, had a great idea! He was an ice cream vendor. In 1920 a child, who wanted both an ice cream sandwich and a chocolate bar, inspired Nelson to create the Eskimo Pie. He froze a coating of chocolate around a slice of ice cream. After much trial and error, he discovered just the right mix so that the chocolate and cocoa butter would stick to the ice cream. This was the first innovation in ice cream since the ice cream cone was invented in 1903.

While Marco Polo introduced Europe to ice cream in the 1300s, it wasn't until 1851 that this sweet treat was first sold commercially. With the inventiveness of Christian Nelson, the Eskimo Pie was born in Iowa in 1920.

At first he called his creation an "I-Scream-Bar." He got it patented and then teamed up with Omaha confectioner Russell Stover to produce what they began to call the Eskimo Pie.

They first tested their new product in Des Moines and Chicago. Soon, millions of people from California to New York fell in love with the Eskimo Pie. It became a national sensation. And its influence spread even farther: so strong was the demand for the Eskimo Pie, that it helped lift cocoa- and chocolate-producing countries out of a depression. Not bad for a simple idea from a creative Iowan.


• The Eskimo Pie was an overnight sensation. At the height of its popularity, more than 1 million sold daily.
• Christian Nelson also developed an insulated jug for selling Eskimo Pies at newsstands and by street vendors.
• In 1924, Nelson sold the Eskimo Pie Corporation (which became a subsidiary of the Reynolds Foil Company), but he remained a principal stockholder.


  • Carey, Steven. Invention 'Book. 184-187. New York: Workman Publishing.
    Goodrum, Charles, and Helen Dalrymple. Advertising in America: The First 200 Years. NewYork; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990. "He Makes Kids Scream for More Ice Cream." Unpublished manuscript- Eskimo Pie Corporation.
    A Project of KDSM-TV (Des Moines), KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids), the State Historical Society of Iowa & the Iowa Department of Economic Development
  • ©1991 State Historical Society of Iowa • TO BE USED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY
  • Eskimo Pie is now part of “Cool Brands Inc.”



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