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History of Chewing Gum

Updated on October 24, 2012

The development of chewing gum has taken thousands of years to become what gum is today. Over these many years, almost every culture in the world present and past has chewed some sort of of this chewy substance. There is no single "inventor" of gum but the civilizations and people mentioned in this article play a large role towards this development.

Chicozapote Tree With Cuts To Let The Sap Flow
Chicozapote Tree With Cuts To Let The Sap Flow

Ancient Civilizations

Chewing gum is one of the oldest candies, and was used by many ancient civilizations for various reasons.

Ancient Greeks:The Greeks would chomp on tree resin from the mastic tree in order to clean their teeth and freshen their breath. They called this breath freshener mastiche.

Native Americans: These people from North America chewed on tree resin from the Spruce tree all the way until the 19th century.

Mayans:The Mayans lived Central America where the gathered sap from the Chicozapote tree. Cutting a zigzag pattern into the bark to let the sap flow, the Mayans would allow this sap to flow into buckets they placed at the bottom of the tree. They would then dry it and later use it to clean their teeth and avoid hunger when fasting. The Mayans gave it the name ''sicte'' but it is commonly known as ''chicle'' when translated in Spanish.

Black Jack Gum
Black Jack Gum

Thomas Adams

Attempts In The 1800's

In the 1800's, unique American inventors tried their luck at making a sort of chewing gum using various recipes. Some had this idea from the start while others discovered this tasty substance by pure luck. The most popular gum inventors include the Curtis brothers, Thomas Adams and the Fleer brothers.

The Curtis Brothers: As residents of Maine, the Curtis brothers began experimenting with the resin of spruce trees and a Franklin Stove. After creating a rubbery substance and deciding they liked it, the brothers sold gum commercially for the first time in history at only a penny for two chunks.

During the year of 1850 after they had reasonable success, the brothers decided to go full gears into their gum making business. Adding paraffin and flavoring to their already popular recipe, the Curtis brothers opened the Curtis Chewing Gum Factory, the first major gum manufacturing plant. As time went on, less and less was made from spruce and was replaced by the more chewable paraffin gum from the Curtis brothers.

Thomas Adams:Originally a photographer from New York, Thomas Adams accidentally discovered his famous gum by an idea from Mexico's Santa Anna. Thomas Adams was trying to make masks, boots, tires, toys, etc. out of the rubbery chicle from the Sapodilla trees in Mexico as suggested by Santa Anna, but every attempt failed. One day out of boredom and interest, he plopped a piece in his mouth and discovered it's superiority over current gum.

Soon he was mixing up batches in his kitchen and rolling the chicle into balls. He would then wrap them in colored tissue and once approved, sell them to local drugstores. This new product went by the name of "Adams New York Snapping and Stretching Gum." Before he knew it, Adams had so many order to fill, that he began to fall behind and couldn't keep up. So he patented his recently invented gum manufacturing machine in 1871 to help him keep up.

In 1875, Adams sold his new gum that had licorice flavoring. But that wasn't all, it was the first gum to be sold in the form of a stick, and the public went insane! He named this new flavor "Black Jack" which was manufactured all the way until the 1970s.

Adams success continued, and in 1888 his company introduced vending machines to America, which sold "Black Jack" and a newly introduced "Tutti-Frutti" flavor. Motivated by his company's success, he expanded further by merging his company along with the six other largest gum manufacturing companies into one. It was called the American Chicle Company.

The Fleer Brothers:As these brothers, Henry and Frank Fleer, experimented with chicle in 1880, they each discovered a new type of gum. Henry covered normally tasteless chicle cubes with a sugary white material and named it "Chiclets." At the same time, Frank discovered a recipe for the world's first bubble gum and named it "Blibber Blubber Bubble Gum." While the Fleer's products were popular in their neighborhood, they never took off because they were neither well marketed or perfected.

Other Credible Names

Along with the three popular names already mentioned, many more people helped develop gum along the way. Here are just a few of these noteworthy names.

John Colgan, 1880-As a druggist from Kentucky, Colgan was the first to add sugar to chicle and make the treat even sweeter than before. This improvement increased the number of chewers by the thousands.

Walter Diemer, 1928-Although Frank Fleer was the first one to create Bubble Gun, an employee of the Fleer's company, Walter Diemer, perfected this recipe and colored it pink. He named this gum "Double Bubble" and it was an instant success. Over a million and a half dollars worth of it was sold in it's first year.

Chewing Gum Today

Today chewing gum is made out of a synthetic formula for gum base. Gum base contains plasticizers for softening, resins for binding,elastomers for elasticity, fillers for texture and antioxidants for preserving. Heated at 240 degrees F, the gum base is melted down into a syrupy substance. This liquid is then filtered to get rid of lumps and to smooth it out. Sweetness and different texture is then provided by mixing artificial sweeteners into the melted gum base. Any flavoring is also added before the gum is cooled, shaped, flattened, and finally packaged.

Ingrediants in Chewing Gum

On average, how many pieces of gum do you chew per day?

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Fun Facts

  • Over 300 pieces of gum are chewed a year by the average American
  • Doctors around 1860 told their patients to not chew gum, believing that it wold cause their intestines to stick together.
  • "Mood Gum" was invented in Japan which changes colors depending on your mood
  • The sale of gum has always remained strong unlike other candies which goes up and down
  • Using peanut butter, it is possible to remove dried gum in your hair
  • $2 billion of gum is sold every year in the U.S.
  • While peeling onions, try chewing gum to prevent yourself from crying


For any questions or comments please contact me or leave a comment below. Have a nice day!


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    • xrocker30 profile image

      xrocker30 6 years ago

      I'm glad it interested you Helmutbiscut :)

    • helmutbiscut profile image

      helmutbiscut 6 years ago from Ohio

      Very interesting hub. I have always wondered where gum came from.

    • xrocker30 profile image

      xrocker30 6 years ago

      Thanks for the support Mike!

    • profile image

      mikeq107 6 years ago

      Great hub mate on a small stick of gum that stretches back a couple of hundred years...the first bungee cord through time LOL

      Mike :0)

      Voted up shared with followers!!!!

    • xrocker30 profile image

      xrocker30 6 years ago

      I'm glad you found it interesting jseven. Maybe there is gum without articficial sweeteners. That wou;d be interesting to look into...

    • jseven profile image

      jseven 6 years ago from Michigan

      What an interesting hub! I like my gum, but they are putting so many artificial sweeteners in it that I'm allergic to.

    • xrocker30 profile image

      xrocker30 6 years ago

      Thank you for the comment Glen619. I put a lot of research and time into this hub.

    • Glen619 profile image

      Glen619 6 years ago from Camden, New Jersey

      Nice overview of the chewing gum really good hub, loved it