The first recorded snow cones were produced by Samuel Bert of Dallas, TX in 1919 at the State Fair of Texas. He created the first ice-crushing snow cone machine in 1920 and sold both snow cones and snow cone machines until his death in 1984.
The first block-style ice shaving machine was patented in 1934 by Ernest Hansen of New Orleans, Louisiana. An immense hit, Hansen’s snow cones set themselves apart because of the difference in consistency: while most snow cones are rough and crunchy in consistency, Hansen’s block shaving machine produced ice flakes the consistency of actual snow.
The difference in consistency and surface area of the ice particles allows for significantly different uptake and retention of the flavoring syrup. Because of these differences and as an homage to Ernest’s ingenious method, traditional block ice shavers are often referred to as New Orleans style. Ernest’s family continues to work in the snow cone business to this very day.
Yet another variation of the snow cone originated in Asia, where shaved ice desserts have been popular since the 19th century. When Japanese immigrants came to the Hawaiian islands to work in sugar and pineapple plantations, they brought this confection with them, using hand-operated steel blades to shave the ice in a method very similar to Ernest Hansen’s. The treat quickly became immensely popular throughout the islands, where the tropical temperatures ensured “shaved ice” sold all year. But earlier these shave ice were sold only on Sunday which was the weekly off for the Japanese plantation workers. They use to shave ice and pour fresh fruit juice over it. After the Japanese left the plantations, they took up other professions like grocery stores,etc. By this time shave ice had become immensely popular and a par of Hawaiian culture. The shave ice became commercial and was being sold everywhere as a refreshing icy treat.
Hawaiian shaved ice cones are known for the ice’s extremely fine–near powdery–consistency, as well as the unusual flavor combinations used: typically, tropical fruit flavored syrups are used, with many variants including a scoop of vanilla ice cream or Japanese azuki, a red, sweet bean.