The History of the Snoball - Chris Boudy
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The History of the Snoball

Apr 14 2016

The History of the Snoball

Ah yes the snoball.  A long honored New Orleans treat during the the summertime.  But where did it actually come from?  What was the first snowball flavor?  And how did it get so popular in the South?  To get these answers and much more, let’s look back to the beginning.

Shaved Ice & Snow Cones

Around the time of the American Industrial Revolution (mid 1800s), ice houses started to pop up in Northern cities.  Blocks of ice used for residential and commercial reasons because more commonly available.  During the summer time, kids would ask for shavings of ice to eat to cool down.  Mothers saw that their children like the ice shavings so much that they started to make flavorings to go on top the ice.  The first snow cone flavor was invented in Baltimore.  It was egg custard.  Egg custard was an easy flavor to make as the only ingredients were eggs, vanilla, and sugar.  During World War II, all available ice cream was sent to soldiers fighting in the war and so the snow cone got a bump in popularity.

From Snow Cones to Snoballs

A Sno Cone (The Snowballs Distant Cousin)

A Sno Cone (The Snoballs Distant Cousin)

While snow cones where a hit in the North, people down South tried to find ways to improve them.  One innovation was to make make the ice a more powdery consistency.  The snow cone consisted of ice shavings that were small chucks of ice whereas the snoballs consisted of a finer grain of ice that allowed it to be absorbed by flavors easier.  No one knows who coined the term “snoballs” but we do know who set a path to make them popular in New Orleans.

In 1933, Ernest Hansen started working on an ice-shaving machine.  Before then, most snoballs where manually scrapped from a block of ice.  His goal was to make the first motor-driven ice shaving machine and in 1936 he opened the first snoballs stand (which is still open today): Hensen’s Sno-Bliz.  In 1939, George Ortolano also invested an ice-shaving machine called the Sno-Wizard.  He created it from wood and galvanized metal.  His design is still being used today in most snoball stands around New Orleans.

Blueprints from George Ortolano Sno-Wizard Machine

Blueprints from George Ortolano Sno-Wizard Machine

Fast Forward To The Snoball Of Today

Thankfully, we won’t have to taste an egg custard snoball but once the motorized ice shaver was invented, it revolutionized the business.  Today, you’ll find stand with over 60+ snoball flavors.  Original, cream, diet, and even homemade flavors.  Still carrying on the tradition of serving up icy treats on a hot summer day.

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