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Shorty The Iceball Man (Jesse Vant) - New Castle PA

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Jesse “Shorty” Vant, born in Italy on February 2, 1888, arrived In the United States in 1912. He made his way to New Castle, presumably having relatives in the city, and soon took up residence along East Long Avenue. In the early 1920’s he began selling shaved ice with your choice of syrup – from a blue push cart during the summer months. He made his rounds from 11:00am until dark, stopping at playgrounds and other locations on the south side of New Castle, Mahoningtown, downtown New Castle, Cascade Park, and even West Pittsburg. It’s said he walked as many as fifteen miles a day. His most popular location was setting up beside the New Castle News building at 2pm – so all the newsboys could buy his refreshments. At some point he also took a job as a janitor at Jameson Hospital. He pushed his cart for at least thirty years and was well known throughout the community. He passed away in December 1959 at the age of 71 and was laid to rest in St. Vitus Cemetery. (1949)


  1. I remember Shorty Ice Ball very well. I lived across the street from Gaston Park until I was 10 yrs. old. I wrote about him in my recently finished memoir. I’m now almost 82 and have fond memories of growing up in New Castle. I now live in Lancaster, Pa.

  2. i do remember shorty the iceball man, we lived on waldo street and he had a house at the bottom of waldo street, on hamilton i believe. had many of his shaved ice flavors, was interesting to read about him!! In this day and age, no one would do what he did!!!

  3. Lived by St Vitus Church. Shorty always came after supper. The best root beer flavoring in the world. He was a hard working immigrant who left a mark on many lives

    RIP Dear Shorty

  4. Looking for any assistance on tracing my family history with those who remember the period of about 1912 to 1930. My grandfathers lived in New Castle and may have also been street vendors. Similarly to Shorty Jesse my one grandfather John was short around 5-3”. Peter owned a florist shop and candy store possibly.

    Anyone out there remember them or have photos?


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