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What's the Story Behind Chewing Gum?

Updated on May 20, 2016

Chewing Gum Facts and Myths

Most of us have chewed gum. I can remember as a kid wadding a whole package of gum into my my mouth and chomping away, Have you ever thought about where gum originated? how is gum made? Have you wondered: "Is it really dangerous to swallow gum? How do you get gum out?

The Discovery of Chewing Gum

The first evidence of chewing gum was found in Finland dating back to around the time when first prehistoric man made stone tools. Chewing gum of that period was made from the tar of tree bark. Archeologists believe that the gum made from this tar had a medicinal purpose. Chicle which was the original substance used in making commercial chewing gum was used by the ancient Aztecs every day.Aztec women used it as a mouth freshener.

Ancient Greeks chewed gum from the resin of the mastic tree. Native Americans chewed resin from spruce tree sap. New England settlers learn the practice from them. John B. Curtis sold the first commercial chewing gum--"The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. By 185o a gum made of paraffin wax replaced spruce gum in popularity. Another early patent for chewing gum was granted to William Semple on December 28, 1869.

Modern Chewing Gum

Chewing gum as we know it today was first developed in the 1860s when Mexican President General Santa Anna came to New York and gave it to Thomas Adams as a rubber substitute. Rather than being used as a rubber replacement, gum was cut into strips and marketed as Adams New York Chewing Gum in 1871, followed by Black Jack in 1884 and Chicklets in 1899.

Because Chicle did not make good chewing gum, U.S chewing gum manufacturers created synthetic gums using hydrocarbon polymers such as styrenebutadiene rubber, isobutelene, isoprene copolymer, paraffin wax and petroleum wax.

How It's Made

Is it Harmful to Swallow Chewing Gum?

According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, chewing gum generally is not harmful if swallowed. Although folklore suggests that gum will sit in the swallower's stomach for seven years before it can be digested. This is not true. Though it is true that your body is unable to digest chewing gum, it does not stay in your stomach. it usually simply travels in tact through your digestive tract and excreted through your digestive system.

Sometimes, on rare occasions, large amounts of swallowed gum can cause constipation and obstruction in the intestines of young children. This is why parents should try to avoid allowing their children to swallow gum.

How to Dispose of Chewing Gum Properly

Since swallowing chewing gum may not be good for the digestive tract, when you finish chewing the flavor out of the chewing gum, you need to find a way to dispose of it. One way, is to simply drop it on the ground, but as everyone knows, chewing gum on the sole of the shoe is an unpleasant experience. Putting chewing gum on the underside of desks or movie theatre seats is an extremely unsanitary practice as many janitors can attest. a better way to dispose of chewing gum is by throwing it into the trash. Ideally, when you throw the gum into the trash, you should wrap chewing gum in a piece of paper such as the wrapper from which it came. That keeps the gum contained so that its stickiness does not cause any adverse effects to anyone handling the trash..

When Chewing Gum Gets Where You Don't Want it

It seems that no matter how careful we are at making certain that gum makes it into the proper receptacles, we eventually have to deal with gum getting somewhere we don't want it. Gum will get in a child's hair, or on the bottom of a shoe, on tile or wood flooring or worse, smashed into a carpet.

I have basically two things that i use to remove gum from where I do not want it. If the gum is a relatively tight ball, taking ice and freezing the gum makes it easy to pry off a smooth type of flooring, the bottom of a shoe or even a child's hair.

If however, the gum is smashed into a carpet or into hair and is difficult to loosen and remove using ice, peanut butter works wonders. Rub peanut butter into the gum and scrub into the carpet or hair using a toothbrush. Wait about ten minutes. By the end of the ten minutes, the peanut butter will have dissolved the chewing gum. The combination of the peanut butter and chew gum will look like a mess, but you can then easily remove the greasy peanut butter using a dish detergent that dissolves grease. Once you have removed the greasy mess with the detergent, rinse affected area until clear.

© 2014 Cygnet Brown


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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      That's fine. I mentioned it because sometimes they seem to get lost and then reappear later! Thanks for reading them.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 3 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I'm sorry I didn't leave a comment. I was too busy reading!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I would never have guessed that chewing gum went back that far. I used to chew it occasionally as a teenager but it always made my jaw ache. I hate the stuff now. Apparently it takes millions of pounds to clean it off the pavements yearly; a good enough reason to ban it!

      Interesting hub. Thanks also for the follow. Glad you enjoyed the NZ hubs - if you left a comment I'm afraid I can't find it! All the best. Ann

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I did not know this about your country, alancaster! Thank you so much for this added information. I remember having heard that song "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavor on the Bedpost overnight." I can understand why in your country, getting rid of gum in public places is ilicit. Imagine the germs! Yuck!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      You can finish up before 'the beak' (magistrate/judge) in this country for illicitly getting rid of your gum in public places, i.e., dropped on pavements and various public sites. There are now receptacles on bin-tops on city streets.

      When US Forces first came to Britain in WWII the troops/sailors/airmen handed out gum, Hershey bars and other goodies to kids and gum-chewing took off in a big way. Tons of the stuff is still sold today, mainly Wrigleys but other brands have worked their way through the market. It does help with concentration, but there are some 'sniffy' types here who dismiss gum as socially unacceptable (my Ma didn't like me chewing gum either, but then she didn't like Americans - full stop).

      We have a song here from the 50's by skiffle 'pioneer' Lonnie Donegan, 'Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour On The Bed-post Overnight?' (Funny, she liked that!) I never experimented with that one - didn't chew it again after taking it out the first time.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Thanks for your comment, teaches12345. The trick for using the peanut butter to remove gum I used just a few days ago, so I know it works!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I remember my mom telling me gum would stay in my tummy forever if swallowed. Thanks for the information, especially the peanut butter tip.

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Thanks Bill, the whole hub was inspired by a wad of gum in the carpet. Even every day frustrations can inspire hubs.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The Ancient Greeks chewed gum? Now there is a piece of trivia I did not know. Very interesting article about a topic that could hardly be described as interesting. :) Well done, Donna!