Monday, January 20, 2014

John Hicks Was One Cool Inventor

John S. Hicks of Erie, PA taken about 1898.
John S. Hicks was a local businessman and inventor who lived in Erie, PA. He was born in Virginia on Feb. 14, 1845. He came to Erie around 1878 and operated a business at 1406 Turnpike St. for about three years. John later purchased a three-story building at 1216 State Street which housed his ice cream manufacturing business and retail store in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"During the summer season his specialty is the furnishing of ice cream for his parlors and for supplying orders for private families, parties, picnic and church festivals. The purity of his ice cream has become known all through the city." -Erie Morning Dispatch, April, 1883.

Hicks was granted a U.S. patent number 801,379 on October 10, 1905 for an Ice-cream Mold. "My invention is an improved ice-cream mold for molding a brick of ice-cream with a figure of any desired form in the center thereof." 

Judging from advertisements in the local newspapers, it was common at the time for customers to buy a pint-sized block of ice cream with a shape in the center that corresponded to a holiday, such as a lamb at Easter time.  

Hicks was chosen by the Governor of Pennsylvania to be a delegate to the Illinois National Half-Century Exposition held in Chicago in 1915 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Mr. Hicks was a pioneer African-American businessman in Erie, Pennsylvania. He retired from the ice cream business around 1910. He died on Nov. 13, 1933 and was buried in Erie Cemetery. His building at 1216 State Street was demolished about thirty years after he died.

Learn more facts about Erie PA at Old Time Erie

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