Friday, January 18, 2019

The History Of Chewing Gum

Candy, Chiclets, Brand, Gum, ColorfulI seldom chewed gum growing up because it was seen as something nice people didn't do.  Actually, the only time I could chew gum was when I flew somewhere because it relieved the pressure in my ears, otherwise, I couldn't.  I think there was a song in the 60's about leaving your chewing gum on the bedpost over night so it would taste better but I have no idea if that was true.

During my research on gum flavors, I stumbled across a comment about chewing gum being around for a very long time.  I thought it was rather recent but apparently, this item has been around a lot longer. 

According to several sources, people as far back as 9000 years ago were chewing a birch bark tar while the Ancient Greeks chewed a mastic gum made out of resin from the mastic tree.  Ancient Mayas chewed a derivative of the Sapodillo tree while Native Americans chewed spruce tree resin, a practice taken up by European settlers. 

This lead to John Curtis developing the first commercial chewing gum in 1840 by boiling spruce tree resin before cutting it into strips, coating it with cornstarch and selling it. He called it "The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.  About 10 years later, Mr Curtis build the first chewing gum factory in Portland, Maine but spruce resin gum had a few problems.  The gum really didn't taste good and it became too brittle when chewed, so he and others began playing around with the recipe to make it better by adding paraffin wax.

It wasn' until 1869 that the United States issued the first chewing gum patent to Amos Tyler who never actually commercially made chewing gum.  However, a dentist took the patent and marketed a chewing gum with charcoal and chalk.

About the same time, another inventor - Mr Adams - got some chicle, the derivative from the Sapodillo tree, from the Mexican President to produce some type of rubber but he discovered it worked better as chewing gum by flavoring it.  He founded a company to produce the Adams New York Chewing Gum which was really the first mass marketed gum. 

Over the next few years, the company marketed Sour Orange gum as an after dinner gum and Black Jack - a licorice flavored gum. Unfortunately there was only one big problem with all these gums, they were unable to hold flavor for very long.  This problem was overcome in the 1880's when someone added sugar and corn syrup to the Chicle, threw in some peppermint for longer flavor and marketed it as Yucatan Gum.

Adams took advantage of this technology to create Tutti-Fruitti flavored gum, the first chewing gum sold in vending machines located in the New York subways.   Until the mid-1900's, Chicle was imported from Mexico and South America and used as the main ingredient in chewing gum. 

Around the same time as this was happening, William Wrigley Jr was selling soap to stores and offering free cans of baking powder as a reward.  He discovered store owners were more interested in the baking powder than the soap, he began selling baking powder while offering chewing gum as a reward for buying the baking powder.

In 1893, he began offering two new flavors of gum.  One was Juicy Fruit while the other was Spearmint.  Wrigley decided to stand out in the crowd of competitors by heavily advertising his product and using direct marketing.  He did things like mail samples of chewing gum to every person listed in the phone books, or sending gum to every child on their second birthday. 

While Wrigley did this, Frank Fleer took a different path after he made cubes of chicle overlaid with a sweet material marketed as Chiclets.  He was one of those numerous competitors, so he focused on creating a chewing gum that could be blown into bubbles.  In 1906, he came up with "Blibber-Blubber" the first bubble gum but it didn't sell well because it was way too sticky.  However, in 1928, one of his employees finally solved the problem and the company released the first commercial bubble gum dubbed "Dubble Bubble". 

Competition continued with changes to the basic recipe so gum improved along with new flavors, colors, etc.  In 1951, the Tripp company created a new demand for bubble gum when they began packaging baseball cards with the gum, instead of a single cigarette.  This lead to children beginning their baseball card collection.

The other big development of the 1950's, was the invention of sugar gum and bubble gum to decrease the formation of cavities.  So now you can find gum in all sorts of flavors, shapes, and sizes.  I'd love to hear what you think.  Let me know.  Have a great day.

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