In the 1920s, the United States saw unprecedented levels of wealth flow directly to some of its wealthiest citizens, while large expansions in manufacturing meant more things to buy and more money for those willing to work in factories.
As a result, the gum and candy industry was booming with more companies to create new styles and flavors and more customers who could afford to spend a little extra on a sweet treat. Much like each decade that would follow, the age of jazz left its own mark on the world of flavored gums. Here’s how the Roaring 20s helped chewing gum jitterbug its way into pop culture:
American processing and manufacturing took several leaps forward during the 1920s. Thanks in large part to “assembly line” style organization and technological advancements in key pieces of machinery, chewing gum could now be produced with much greater speed and variety. By the mid 20s, gum could be easily shaped into various sticks or pellets, blown into large bubbles, or crafted with extended chewing time and longer-lasting flavor.
All this progress meant more jobs for people making gum, more companies actually selling gum, and more customers interested in buying gum.
Through both happenstance and marketing moxy, a good bit of the chewing gum and bubble gum of the 1920s and 1930s was sold alongside something else—typically a cheaper novelty item geared toward children. Though gum wouldn’t be paired up with baseball cards until the early 1930s, it was often sold with short comics, paper “fortunes,” or tiny plastic toys.
This habit began in the 1910s when larger companies would include gum or candy with their more basic household products, such as baking soda, only to find that the candy proved to be more popular than the actual item. From there, the idea morphed into something more focused on fun and youthfulness, eventually finding its home in American baseball.
You can’t talk about the 1920s without referencing the iconic “flappers,” independent women of the 20s who did the Charleston, spoke their minds, and—believe it or not—chewed gum. Seen as an affront to the etiquette of the 19th century, a woman chewing gum in public represented freedom and a lack of inhibition.
By the 1950s, women would be more concerned with a chewing gum freshening your breath or brightening your teeth. For now, though, it was a revolution.