Willamette’s Summer Market (History of Shave Ice and Snow Cones)

History of Shave Ice & Snow Cones


Hi and welcome to another episode of Around The Neighborhood with me, Scott McMahon.  This is the show about the quest for fun, history, and mystery in our backyard.


And today, we’ll be heading back to another Wednesday at the Willamette Summer Market, and as I’ve been doing in previous episodes, we’re going to explore some culinary history before we make our way back up to the market.


Today, it’s all about the history of the snow cone and shave ice.  We’re in the dog days of summer and what better treat than to cool off with a snow cone or shave ice.  What’s the difference?  Let’s find out.


It all starts back in the 1850’s when American Industrial Revolution allowed for ice to be made for commercial uses.  Ice houses in New York would commonly sell ice to Florida.  To do so, they loaded up large blocks of ice onto special wagons that would be pulled by horses from New York down to Florida.  By the time these ica wagons reached Baltimore, Maryland, the kids would flag down the driver to see if they could have any scraps of ice from the large blocks.


Initially, this was the first formation of the icy treat.  A simple snowball to eat during the summer months.  The mom’s of these kids from Baltimore started to make some flavoring for the snowballs.  The original flavoring was Egg Custard.  Made of eggs, vanilla, and sugar.


In the 1870’s theater owners started to sell snowballs to their customers during the summer months to keep them cool.  Since most of the theater going patrons were of a more affluent standing, snowballs were considered high class at the time.  For the general public, snowballs were served on newspaper.


The difference between what we know as a snow cone and shave ice, is that a snow cone is made of crushed hard ice in which the flavored syrup is poured on top of the ice after being scooped into a cup or bowl.  Most of the time with a snow cone the liquid flavoring sinks to the bottom and the ice is very crunchy.


With shaved ice, which the original snowball resembles, the ice is neatly “shaved” creating a more fluffy compact treat.  The flavoring gets absorbed better with shaved ice, as it’s normally eaten with a spoon.


The popularity of the snowball grew from Baltimore, when in 1919, Samuel Bert from East Dallas, Texas, also known as “King Sammie” began selling the icy treat at the Texas State Fair.  The following year, “King Sammie” patented an ice crushing machine.  By 1950, “King Sammie” was selling about a million snow cones a year at the fair, plus making money from the sales of his ice crushing machine.


While “King Sammie” was making the snow cone, down in New Orleans, Louisiana, Ernest and Mary Hansen invented the first electric ice shaving machine.  The snowball or shaved ice treat became big business in New Orleans.  So much so, that they tried to claim that New Orleans was the snowball capitol of the United States.


The icy treat has many names and many variations all over the world.  I was going to try and name off as many as I could, but I know I would end up butchering the pronunciation of all of them.


But since I’m wearing my Hawaiian shirt today, let’s explore the history of the Hawaiian Shave Ice Treat.


This iconic treat starts back in the plantation days, when Japanese immigrants came to the Hawaiin islands to work in the sugar and pineapple fields.  You know, the last episode I did a bit of history on the fortune cookie and how it originated from Japanese-American immigrants too.  Immigrant stories.  Amazing!  Anyway, these Japanese immigrants brought with them the concept of this treat called, Cock-Kee-Gory (Kakigori), meaning shaved ice.


These Japanese immigrants would take tools to neatly shave off flakes of ice from the large ice blocks and pour sugar and pineapple juice into it.  In Pidgin vernacular, the refreshing treat became known as shave ice and NOT shaved ice, because in Pidgin speak, words tend to be in the present and not in the past tense. “Hey bra, you got some shave ice, huh?”


In the 1950’s Matsumoto’s Shave Ice became a renown location for all the visiting surfers on the North Shore of Oahu.  Originally created as an added value for customers the icy treat became big business all over the island.  The large, soft, fluffy ice allows for all sorts of syrup combinations to get absorbed and retain it’s flavor better than the snow cone.  And it’s not just syrup flavoring that makes this treat so special.  Sometimes, ice cream, or sweetened condensed milk, or fruit is added to the bottom.  In fact, it was the Japanese immigrants who also introduce the Ah-Zoo-Kee (Azuki) bean, a red bean that they would boil and add sugar to while pressing it into a sweet paste and add that to the bottom of the Cock-Kee-Gory, or our Pidgin shave ice.


And that’s some of the history behind the snow cone, snowball, and Hawaiin shave ice.  And you know what that means … it’s time to head to the market to get our Brain Freeze Shave Ice treat!



Historic Willamette: http://historicwillamette.com

West Linn Historical Society: http://westlinnhistory.org/

Willamette Ale & Cider House: http://www.aleandcider.com/

Faballicious Sweets: https://www.faballicious.com/

Brain Freeze Shave Ice Bar: bfshaveicebar@gmail.com

Belamy Leather: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BelamyLeather

Anchor Masks: https://www.facebook.com/anchormasks/

Sommerlind Baking Company: https://www.facebook.com/SommerlindBakingCo/

Wayward Magnolia: https://waywardmagnolia.com/

Divine Dragon Designs: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DivineDragonDesigns

Dregs Vodka: https://www.dregsvodka.com/

Parsons Farms: http://www.parsonsfarmsoregon.com/

Art of Laura Koppes: laurakoppes.weebly.com

Bandit Kettle Corn: http://banditkettlecorn.com/

Anchor Masks: https://www.facebook.com/anchormasks/

J Donish Designs: https://www.etsy.com/shop/jdonishdesigns

Catman Cellars: https://catmancellars.com/

World of Flavors (Wicked Goodness): https://www.wickedgoodnessoregon.com/

South Barlow Berries: https://southbarlowberries.com/

Julie Z Jewels: https://www.facebook.com/juliezjewels/




GoPro Hero 7: https://amzn.to/36Hw4zR

GoPro Vlogging Case: https://amzn.to/2FzfxBY

GoPro Mic Adapter: https://amzn.to/35HE8zg

Microphone: https://amzn.to/2QDAvpE

GoPro Shorty Tripod Extender: https://amzn.to/307SHem



Scott McMahon, Real Estate Broker

Licensed in the State of Oregon

Premiere Property Group, LLC



▼ AFFILIATE DISCLAIMER: Around The Neighborhood is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.