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The First Bubble Gum

First Bubble Gum

History of the Chewing Gum. Chewing gum was created in the 1800's, but the residue bark from the Mastic tree had already been used by the Mayan people.

The History of the Chewing Gum

You may not know it, but chewing gum dates back thousands of years, long before the commercialized product we know today. The Chewing gum we know today was created by Thomas Adams in the 1800's when former Mexican President, Santa Anna, sent him some chicle (a natural gum used produced in Mexico) to try as a rubber substitute. Adams found chicle not to be a rubber substitute; instead he sliced it and sold it as chewing gum while creating the Adams New York Chewing Gum company in 1871. But this stroke of genius isn't where chewing gum originated. It is believed to have been originally used by, among others, the Ancient Greeks and Mayan people who used to chew the residue bark from the Mastic tree. Thousands of years ago it is believed people used to chew gum in the same way we do. To add flavor to this rubbery substance, they used natural sweet grasses, leaves, grains and waxes. An archaeologist recently found the world’s oldest chewing gum, in fact chewed birch resin, which dates back nearly 9000 years. For years, the Ancient Greeks chewed a substance called mastiche, which is derived from mastic, the verb to chew in Greek. It is believed that the Mayan people chewed Sap from the sapodilla tree. It should also be noted that Native Americans, New England settlers as well as other European cultures have chewed, in one form or another, chewing gum.

Around 1848 chewing gum began to be produced commercially and sold by John Bacon Curtis. The gum was called State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum, and was a sticky rubbery material derived from spruce tree resin. In 1850, a competing version was produced using paraffin wax instead of spruce resin which was considered a great improvement in texture and flavor. Naturally this new product quickly overtook Spruce Gum in popularity.

In 1871 Thomas Adams received a patent for a machine to manufacture gum. Adams then released the first chewing gum to be sold in a vending machine, called tutti frutti. These vending machines were placed in the New York City subway. In 1899 New York drug specialist Franklin Canning created Dentyne Gum which was sold as a entertaining way to maintain dental health. The name Dentyne is a combination of "dental" and Hygiene". Seven years later Frank Fleer invented the world’s very first bubble gum called Blibber-Blubber gum. This gum wasn’t sold though because, although it made bubbles, its texture wasn't pleasing and the bubbles it made broke up instead of pulling back. Finally, Walter Diemer, an employee of Frank Fleer's created a bubble gum with the right texture and didn't break into pieces after chewing and blowing bubbles. The pink color, the result of not having any other food coloring available, would become synonymous with all bubble gum and Double Bubble gum was created.

There is such an extensive history to chewing gum it is hard to imagine that it goes back thousands of years. Chewing gum is a millenary product that has become an important of many peoples' lives. On average we chew almost 300 sticks of gum a year and with the variety gum available today it doesn't seem like that number will go down any time soon.