The snow cone is a descendant of Italian ices. Dallas resident Sammie Bert invented a snow cone-making machine in the 1920s and sold the product for over half a century at the State Fair of Texas.
Wikipedia: Snow Cone
A snow cone is a dessert item usually made of compacted shaved ice flavored with a brightly colored sugary syrup, usually fruit-flavored. Variations include the “stuffed” snow cone, which has a layer of soft-serve vanilla ice cream inside. Some are served with a spoon, and some are meant to be eaten with the hands like an ice cream cone. The popularity of snow cones remains concentrated heavily in cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans, and Houston.
In 1934, inventor Ernest Hansen patented the first known “ice block shaver” in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was inspired to create a more refined and hygienic version of the popular Italian ice sold from push-carts in the city. His wife Mary created many flavors of fresh syrups to flavor his finely shaved artificial “snow”. “Snow balls” have been popular in New Orleans ever since. Hansen continued work at the original Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in Uptown New Orleans on Tchoupitoulas Street through 2005, although his granddaughter, Ashley Hansen, has taken over much of the workload. Mrs. Hansen died in late 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina and Mr. Hansen passed away in March 2006.
“Snow balls” have grown in popularity worldwide, though outside of New Orleans they are sometimes called “sno-cones”.
Usually, the snow cones are sold at stadiums and coliseums, and by ice cream vans or by car peddlers at parks. In New Orleans, prior to Hurricane Katrina, there were “snow ball stands” located in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Snow cones are crushed either by hand or with specialized ice-crushing machines.
18 March 1947, Austin (TX) Statesman, pg. 15, col. 7 classified ad:
WANTED A neat, clean, responsible couple between 30 and 45 years of age with good references and car to handle the operation of two concession stands at Barton Springs swimming pool. These stands sell popcorn, peanuts, snow cones, lemonade, etc.
11 August 1951, Dallas (TX) Morning News, part 1, pg. 2:
ONE ORDER FROM ALASKA
Sammie Bert Sells
World Snow Cones
Sammie Bert of Dallas, known as the snow cone king in international snow cone circles, is literally about to sell snow to the Eskimos.
Back in 1919, when Bert first appeared on the Fair Park Midway, he invented a machine for electrically making short order snow cones. He still manufactures these snow-making machines on the Dallas Midway and sends them all over the world. Friday he had an order for one from a client in Alaska where most of the customers would be Eskimos.
King Sammie has a natural businessman’s reticence about revealing how many snow cones he sells in a year. But he did say that he often has to use 1,500
pounds of ice daily to supply his snow cone concession at Fair Park.
And he said his heavier caliber cone-making engines can take fifty pounds of ice and turn it into 200 cones full of syrup-flavored snow in forty seconds.
State Fair of Texas publicity department statisticians estimate that King Sammie sold more than 1,000,000 snow cones during last year’s fair.
King Sammie was definitely not a king when he came to the Fair Park Midway in 1919. He was fresh from service as a combat hospital corpsman in France with the 79th Division. He set up a small snow cone stand, shaving the ice manually with a carpenter-style plane.
His patents on his electric snow-making machinery got him off to a good start by 1920. As the senior concessionaire at Fair Park he now owns, in addition to the snow cones the $100,000 roller coaster, the Cotton Bowl skating rink, a Midway restaurant and the grounds concession for popcorn and peanuts.
King Sammie is a fan of his own products. Almost any of these 100-degree evenings at the Midway, you may see the pleasant little man eating snow and riding over the breezy peaks of his roller coaster
12 September 1984, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, section 1, pg. 10:
Samuel Bert, snow-cone
machine inventor, dead
DALLAS (AP)—Former Illinoisan Samuel Bert, the man credited with inventing the snow cone ice machine and a fixture at the State Fair of Texas for 65 years, is dead at the age of 88.
Bert died Sunday at Baylor University Medical Center of complications from a fall that broke his hip two weeks ago, said his son, Nick.
“He really enjoyed the State Fair,” his son said. “It was his way of life.”
State Fair officials say Bert worked at the fair from at least 1919 to 1983.
“He’s been here longer than anyone keeps records,” said Bob Halford, assistant general manager for the fair.
Nick Bert said his father invented a machine to mechanically scrape ice for snow cones in the late 1920s. He said Bert owned the fair’s Comer Roller Coaster from 1946 until 1976.
Originally from Springfield, Ill., Bert came to Dallas after serving in the Army in France during World War I.
“He worked a couple of fairs before coming to Dallas in 1919,” his son said. “He had a real feeling that it was going to be an up-and-coming town.”
Nick Bert said he and his brother, Samuel Bert Jr., will continue to operate the eight concession stands his father started.
Other survivors include Bert’s wife, Mary; a daughter, Elena Lowry of Dallas; a sister, Jane Bert, of Springfield; 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.