Who Made That: Chewing Gum By Becci Harmon

All around the world it is known as the sticky and scrumptious chew-able treat: chewing gum. There is a variety of people who manufactured this famous sweet, some who were known for introducing this product to the market and some who patented machines that allowed mass production and sales to their admiring customers. But who exactly was responsible for the idea of chewing gum in the first place?

Chewing gum was actually inspired rather than invented when it was introduced to the market. In fact, the creation of this remarkable candy dates back to ancient times where different cultures made gum from different species of trees. The ancient Greeks chewed what they called, mastic gum. It was a concoction of resin from the bark of mastic trees which Greek women were known to use to clean their teeth and freshen up their breath. But they weren't they only culture who utilized this sensational substance, the Mayans and Aztecs were also fond of it as well and created their own type of chewing gum which was known as chicle. It was made from the bark of the sapodilla tree and the Mayans believed it could quench thirst and prevent hunger. However, the Aztecs had a difficult time making it socially acceptable for their culture. Therefore, only children and single women were permitted to partake of it. And of course, there's the culture that is responsible for the massive sales of this product across the United States of America; the North American Indians who commonly chewed resin which came from spruce trees. As they produced this delectable treat from within their tribes, European settlers observed this astounding creation and followed suit shortly after.

Spruce Trees

John B. Curtis, in the late 1840's was responsible for developing the first commercial chewing gum. To do this, he made it from the resin of spruce trees (just as the Native American Indians did) and cut the resin into strips and coated them with corn starch which prevented the sticks of gum from sticking to each other. In the early 1850's, Curtis eventually constructed the first ever chewing gum factory which resided in Portland, Maine. As he continued to sell his chewing gum to customers, he found that the resin from spruce trees was not the ideal ingredient for gum. The resin caused the gum to become extremely brittle and possessed an odd taste. Therefore, he switched to using paraffin wax instead.

Gum made from spruce trees, manufactured in the late 1800s.

Shortly after John B. Curtis began manufacturing spruce chewing gum, an American inventor, Thomas Adams, was able to obtain chicle (the ingredient the Mayans and Aztecs used for their chewing gum) through the Mexican president, Antonio Lopez. Chicle originally was to be used to produce an alternative for rubber, but when that plan failed Adams decided he would use it to make chewing gum much more superior to the original. In the late 1880's, Thomas Adams formed a company to sell his chewing gum. His sales spread across the country. Although chicle served as the main ingredient for the chewing gum, it had been replaced with synthetic ingredients midway through the 20th century.

Adams' take on chewing gum made from chicle, given the name 'Chiclets'

In the late 19th century, one of the most well-known manufacturers of chewing gum was introduced to the market. William Wrigley Jr. a soap salesman in Philadelphia began selling chewing gum after he had switched from soap sales to his more successful sales of baking powder which sold with packs of chewing gum. He eventually began to sell chewing gum in different flavors such as Wrigley's Spearmint and Juicy Fruit, which he invented in 1893. Wrigley began displaying advertisements for him company and sent millions of free chewing gum samples across America. He even began giving out free packs of gum to children on their second birthday.

Vintage poster of three Wrigley's chewing gum flavors.

The competition of chewing gum manufacturers still carries on in the present day. Other chewing gum brands such as Double Bubble, Trident, and Bubble Yum still find themselves racing against one another in the market attempting to captivate the taste buds of their buyers.

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