Dec 2, 2011

Chewing Gum

Gum has a long history from many countries and civilizations. For centuries the ancient Greeks chewed mastic gum, the resin obtained from the bark of the mastic tree, a shrub-like tree found on the island of Chios, Greece. Grecian women especially favored chewing mastic gum to clean their teeth and sweeten their breath.

In the Middle Ages, mastic was used in the Middle East by the Sultan's harem both as a breath freshener, cosmetics, and for its healing properties.

The Mayan people chewed chicle, which is derived from the sap of the Sapodilla tree, a tropical evergreen native to Central America. Chicle was enjoyed for its high sugar content and sweet flavor.

American Indians of New England chewed gum, made from the resin of spruce trees. The custom of chewing gum grew until the early Nineteenth Century when lumps of spruce gum, were sold commercially. Spruce gum was gradually replaced by paraffin wax-based gum. It was eventually replaced by other substance. Sweetened and flavored paraffin wax is still used in the production of novelty chewing products.

Former Mexican political leader Antonio de Santa Anna went into exile and boarded with Thomas Adams in his Staten Island home. Santa Anna brought with him a large quantity of chicle. He felt chicle would be in high demand among Americans because he believed it could be used as an additive to natural rubber, which could make rubber a less expensive material and could be used to manufacture all kinds of things, such as tires. He asked Adams to experiment with it.

Adams spent over a year trying to make rain boots, toys, masks and bicycle tires, but found chicle unsuitable as a rubber substitute. Adams decided to experiment with chicle as a gum base and found that chicle-based gum was smoother, softer and superior in taste to the paraffin gums available at that time. Adams produced a batch of chicle-based gum and persuaded a local druggist to carry it. Soon Adams opened the world’s first chewing gum factory.

By February 1871, Adams New York Gum could be found on sale in drug stores for a penny per piece. In 1888, a Thomas Adams' chewing gum called Tutti-Frutti became the first gum to be sold in a vending machine. The machines were located in a New York City subway station.

The firm was the nation's most prosperous chewing gum company and built a monopoly in 1899 by merging with the six largest and best-known chewing gum manufacturers in the United States and Canada, and achieved great success as the maker of Chiclets, named after chickle.

Also in 1899, Dentyne gum was created by New York druggist Franklin V. Canning. A few years later, in 1906, Frank Fleer invented the first bubble gum called Blibber-Blubber gum, which never sold. Still a few years later in 1914, William Wrigley, Jr. and Henry Fleer added mint and fruit extracts to a chicle-based chewing gum and created Doublemint gum.

In 1928 the first commercially successful bubble gum based on Frank Fleer’s 1906 creation was manufactured and was called Double Bubble. The Wrigley Company was a prominent user of chicle until the 1960s, when it was replaced by a less expensive material that made chewing gum cheaper to manufacture. There are only a few companies today that still make chewing gum from natural chicle and other natural gums.  That's a lot to chew on.