“The first Boston ice brought to these islands” arrived September 4, 1850, by way of San Francisco aboard the brig Fortunio. On June 22, 1852, “a few tons of ice were brought to this port from San Francisco by the bark Harriet T. Bartlet” and were partly sold at auction; this was hailed as “the first importation of the kind, in any quantity, to this market.” (Schmitt)
The first full cargo of ice came from Sitka aboard the brig Noble in the latter part of 1853. Locally manufactured ice was put on sale December 2, 1871, but the firm providing it went out of business a month later. Local production of ice was eventually resumed in 1875. (Schmitt)
Lots of things changed with ice and, later, refrigeration; among the nice outcomes was Shave Ice.
It is referred to in different ways, depending on where you are from … in Hilo it’s Ice Shave; lots of folks outside the Islands call it Sno-Balls, SnoCones (or Snow Cones) or even Shaved Ice.
Shave ice exists all over the world today and is known as Gola Gunda in Pakistan, Juski in India, Ice Kachang in Malasia & Singapore where it is served with red beans and other fruits, Raspa, Raspado, or Raspadillo in Mexico and Peru (Raspar means “scrape” in Spanish.) (Stever)
The story of when and where the first Shave Ice showed up is unclear. Shaving or crushing ice, or gathering snow and adding flavor has been popular around the world.
Some suggest it dates back to the Roman Empire (27 BC to AD 395). Snow was hauled from the mountaintops to the city, syrup was added and people had flavored snow.
Initially, hand shavers were used to make shave ice, but by the 1890s many inventors were working on easier ways to make them. In that decade alone, six different patents for electric ice shaving machines were invented.
In about the late-1800s, folks used hand-held wooden planes to shave the ice (or snow) off a block. Samuel Bert of Dallas Texas is credited with inventing a machine to do the work in 1920. He reportedly sold cones and cone machines until his death in 1984.
We can thank the Great Depression for helping to expand the popularity of the shave ice, as ice cream was not readily available or cheap. (SnoBallHut)
By 1934, Ernest Hansen, an inventor from New Orleans, patented the first motorized ice block shaver. His syrup flavored shaved ice became known as “snowballs”.
In the Islands, when Japanese immigrants came to work in the sugar fields, they brought the concept of shave ice with them, using hand-operated steel blades to shave the ice in a method very similar to Ernest Hansen’s.
It was in the Meiji period around the 19th century that kakigori (Japanese shave ice) finally became affordable to the general public. Until then, ice was still expensive as people had to import “Boston Ice” from the US, taking half a year for transporting.
However, when the food entrepreneur Kahe Nakagawa succeeded in delivering ‘Hakodate Ice’ from Hokkaido to Yokohama, the first kakigori shop was opened in the Bashamichi area in Kanagawa in 1872.
And then an icemaker was invented in the middle of the Meiji period and an ice-shaving machine in the early Showa period around the 1930s, eventually making kakigori common food as it is now. (inhamamatsu)
Japanese plantation workers in Hawaiʻi enjoyed it as a refreshing break in the hot, tropical climate. In those days it was only sold on Sundays, the only day off for the plantation workers received.
They would use their machetes to shave flakes from a large block of ice into cups and then pour different fruit juices over the top. (Stradley)
The treat quickly became immensely popular throughout the islands where the tropical temperatures ensured “shaved ice” sold all year.
Hawaiian shave ice is 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.