If you enjoy chewing gum, you are certainly not alone. Just in the United States, 164.83 million Americans were chewing it in 2019. Those are huge numbers, and the history of chewing gum is just as fascinating. So pop a stick or Chiclet in your mouth, and keep reading.
If you think that gum is a newer kind of invention, you would be misinformed. Actually, the ancient Greeks enjoyed chewing resin from Mastic trees, and then, there were the Scandinavians chewing birch sap and Native Americans chomping on spruce tree sap.
However, it was the Mayans who took gum to a whole new level and got the ball rolling. They began to chew chicle, which came from the sap of the very tall sapodilla tree. They enjoyed chewing it after eating maize to freshen their breath.
Within the sapodilla tree’s bark is the white, gummy sap the tree is famous for, called chicle.
When Thomas Adams began playing around with the Chicle sap in the 1870s, real chewing gum was about to be born. The New Jersey inventor had developed a unique business partnership with the now exiled and former Mexican president General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The exile had sent Anna to Staten Island.
The general happened to have brought a large stash of the gummy sap with him in exile. He was hoping to make a fortune by selling Mexican chicle to the U.S. rubber industry. Anna figured that the sap could be added to the production of rubber to reduce its high cost.
The inventor began experimenting with the gummy sap but failed every time he attempted to use it in creating rubber products like toys and rainboots.
One evening, Adams went into the kitchen to try and create a better gum than what the current markets were selling at the time, and that was a paraffin type of product.
He tested it out on the general because he often chomped on chicle.
Voila! Adams had invented an incredible gum that was both soft and smooth and tasty and fun to chew. He rolled the chicle into little balls and brought them to local drugstores where they were a major hit and would sell out immediately.
Adams decided to create a gum machine, and sooner than later, was selling five tons of gum per day. Black Jack, was one of his famous chewing gums, which remained popular until the 1970s.
By the early 1900s, Chiclets were added to his list of chewing gum at his American Chicle Company. The iconic Chiclets box featured hard candy-coated gum in that small, signature square shape. The gum came in colors like white, pink, yellow, orange, purple, green and red.
During WWII, chewing gum was in extremely high demand. It was everywhere, and the chicle supply was dwindling. Scientists knew they had to invent something else and came up with chewing gum that included synthetic gum bases and new resins.
You could call Thomas Adams “The Father of Chewing Gum.”