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People Have Been Eating This Extremely Popular Candy Since Ancient Times!

It's the stuff kids smack and pop in public, and the secret weapon against garlic breath we keep stashed in our purses. Gum is one of those things we tend to take for granted. Have you ever thought about where it comes from?

Chewing gum has been used in multiple forms and flavors throughout time. The ancient Greeks chewed Mastiche; the ancient Mayans chewed the coagulated sap of the Sapodilla tree; North American Indians chewed the sap from spruce trees.

According to anthropologist Jennifer P. Mathews, author of Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, chewing gum has been around on this continent for thousands of years - possibly for enjoyment as well as medicinal purposes, such as relieving toothaches.

Ancient Mayan people chewed a substance called chicle, derived from the sapodilla tree, as a way to quench thirst or fight hunger.

The Aztecs also used chicle and followed a set of rules about its social acceptability - Only kids and single women were allowed to chew on chicle in public. Married women and widows could chew it privately to freshen their breath, while men could chew it in secret to clean their teeth.

In the late 1840s, John Curtis developed the first commercial spruce tree gum by boiling resin, then cutting it into strips that were coated in cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together. By the early 1850s, Curtis had constructed the world’s first chewing gum factory, in Portland, Maine.

However, it turned out that spruce resin proved to be less than ideal for producing gum - It didn't taste great and became brittle when chewed. The gum business then switched to ingredients such as paraffin wax.

The next key steps into the development of the gum business came when an inventor in New York, Thomas Adams, got his hands on some chicle through exiled Mexican president Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

It remains unclear exactly how the 2 men connected, although they would’ve been in contact following Santa Anna’s arrival in the United States sometime after the mid-1850s. Santa Anna wanted assistance developing chicle into a substitute for rubber. He believed the riches he could earn from it would allow him to return to power in Mexico.

After Adams began experimenting with chicle and failed to produce the desired results, Santa Anna abandoned the project. To his benefit, Adamas realized that rather than trying to create a rubber alternative, he could use chicle to produce a better type of chewing gum! By the late 1880s, he formed a gum company that sold all across the country.

Chicle, imported to the United States from Mexico and Central America, served as the main ingredient in chewing gum until most manufacturers replaced it with synthetic ingredients by the mid-1900s.

Wrigley Gum:

In the 20th century, chewing gum made the infamous, William Wrigley Jr., one of the wealthiest men in America! Wrigley started out as a soap salesman in Philadelphia. After moving to Chicago in 1891, he offered store owners incentives to stock his products, such as free baking powder with every order. Realizing that the baking powder sold more than the soap made Wrigley switch to the baking powder business and he added in free packs of chewing gum as promotion.

The chewing gum field began to grow crowded with competitors. In 1893, Wrigley launched 2 new gum brands, Juicy Fruit and Wrigley's Spearmint. Wrigley decided he would make his products stand out by spending heavily on advertising and direct marketing.

In 1915, Wrigley kicked off a campaign where they sent free samples of their gum to millions of Americans listed in the phone books. They even sent sticks of gum to U.S children on their second birthdays!

Another chewing gum business competitor who started out in 1885, Frank Fleer, wanted something unique about his gum that stood out from rivals. He spent years working on a product that could be blown into bubbles! In 1906, he produced a bubble gum called Blibber - Blubber, but it was too sticky. In 1928, a Fleer employee named Walter Diemer finally devised a successful formula for the first commercial bubble gum, dubbed Dubble Bubble.

So, what's the next step in the chewing gum industry?

To make Willy Wonka's three course dinner chewing gum - said to taste like tomato soup, roast beef, and blueberry pie - become a reality!


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