The History of Bubble Gum
Learning to Blow a Bubble
I was eight years old when my cousin, Thomas, taught me how to blow a bubble with bubblegum. We were on the porch of my grandparent's country house on the river, and the delicious pink gum was Dubble Bubble. Days were slower back then and learning how to blow a bubble was a childhood milestone, maybe even a rite of passage.
Today, bubblegum comes in a wide assortment of colors, shapes, and flavors. The non-stick wonder has evolved into a long-lasting dessert-like pastime. And we still blow bubbles. So, who discovered bubblegum? How did it all begin?
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Who Invented Bubblegum?
Bubblegum was invented in 1928 by Walter Diemer, who worked for Fleer Company, a candy manufacturer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You might imagine the father of bubblegum to have been an eccentric candy-making scientist like Willy Wonka, but he was not. In fact, he was an accountant, and his invention of bubblegum was quite by happenchance.
The Fleer Company produced chewing gum, but they brought the gum base in from an outside source and simply added flavor to the product. In an effort to save money in the mid-1920s, Fleer's president, Gilbert Mustin, decided to search for a way to produce the gum in-house. This was a challenge, as the company's founder, Frank Henry Fleer, had already made an unsuccessful attempt back in 1906. The prototype, Blibber Blubber, failed because it was too sticky and lacked cohesiveness.
Gilbert Mustin set up a small gum laboratory that happened to be next to Walter Diemer's accounting office. Mustin did not have any luck in creating a successful gum recipe, and soon began to lose interest in the challenge. One day, Mustin was called down to the office's first floor to take a call on the building's only telephone. Diemer was asked to babysit the kettle of gum in the meantime, and thus began his fascination with discovering the elusive gum recipe. Diemer had no training in chemistry, so he used trial and error in his experiments with the gum. In his spare time, he worked on the gum recipe for about one year until something wonderful happened.
- Many people today misspell the name of Dubble Bubble.
One day, to his delight, Diemer came up with a soft non-stick gum that not only was pleasant to chew, but was perfect for bubble-blowing. That day at work, his co-workers sat around laughing and enjoyed blowing bubbles with the new invention. Unfortunately, the batch of gum did not maintain its consistency and the next day was too hard to blow bubbles.
Diemer did not give up, though, and worked several more months on improving his recipe. He experimented with latex and finally found a gum that worked and would not turn to stone. The office bubble-blowing celebrations continued. Once Diemer was confident with his product, he abandoned the little laboratory and made a big batch using the factory's heavy duty machines. It was perfect, except for its drab grey color. Diemer started over the next day and added the only shade of food coloring in the plant. You guessed it - pink!
Diemer cut the gum into small pieces and, using a packaging machine designed for salt water taffy, wrapped the gum. Diemer sent 100 pieces over to a local candy store, and they sold out by the time the day was done. In the first year, Fleer sold 1.5 million dollars worth of bubblegum, which, at 1 cent each, was a lot of gum. The new bubblegum was called Dubble Bubble.
Original Fleer Company Plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Original location of Fleer Company plant where Dubble Bubble was made.
Diemer never glanced back at his accounting job, and was promoted to Senior Vice President at Fleer. He spent most of his time training salesmen and traveling. The biggest part of the sales pitch was to demonstrate blowing bubbles with the gum, so Diemer had to train his team in bubble-blowing. The new inexpensive bubblegum was a big success, even in the face of the Great Depression. Diemer traveled extensively, starting a plant in Spain and marketing his gum around the world.
During World War II, Dubble Bubble was even distributed in military rations to American soldiers. Unfortunately, bubblegum production was soon halted due to the unavailability of two key ingredients - sugar and latex. When business resumed in 1951, new flavors were added, and Fleer sponsored bubble-blowing contests to promote the bubblegum. The gumball concept was created, and is still very popular today.
Dubble Bubble Assortment
Dubble Bubble Today
Fleer was eventually sold to a Canadian company, Concord Confections, in 1998, and a new Dubble Bubble recipe was created. The new company reintroduced the bubble-blowing contests and held them at Wal-Mart stores across the country. The contests were discontinued soon after the company was sold to Tootsie Roll in 2004. Ironically, it was Tootsie Roll that had been bumped to second place back in the 1920s when Dubble Bubble took over as leader of the 1 cent candy.
As for Walter Diemer, he never bothered with a patent or royalties. He was satisfied with his position as inventor of bubblegum, and dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the gum. Even in retirement, he was known to pedal around the neighborhood on an adult-sized tricycle, handing out bubblegum to children. Maybe he was a bit like Willy Wonka after all.
- Walter Diemer - Level 2
Melissa Yates, Central Bucks School District, Dolyestown, PA
- History of Dubble Bubble
- Chewing gum | World news | guardian.co.uk
- Largest bubblegum bubble blown - Size - Explore Records - Guinness World Records