The RMS Titanic set sail from Southhampton, England in April of 1912, headed across the Atlantic for New York City harbor. While the United States toward which the legendary vessel had directed its course was still a young country in the eyes of much of the world, its agricultural resources and growing industry had already made it a major member of the global community.
This fact would be illustrated several times over the next decade, such as when American soldiers join the Allied efforts in World War I, or when American culture makes lasting and fundamental contributions to both public entertainment and the arts. Of course, chewing gum found its place in all these moments, both big and small, as Black Jack, Beemans, and Clove were all hot-selling items throughout this tumultuous decade.
Perhaps one of the most notable changes in American life throughout the 1910s was a rapid increase in urbanization. More and more rural areas were being transformed into cities or suburbs, and as the population grew, personal wealth increased and industry became more concentrated. This trend led to a rise in retail shopping across the country, including the expansion and proliferation of new “department stores,” such as Sears and Marshall Field.
American families and shoppers had more money to spend, and they were looking for fresh and exciting ways to enjoy their disposable income. Naturally, sweets and treats were skyrocketing in popularity, and the few flavored chewing gums of the day, such as Black Jack, Beemans, and Clove, were enjoying enormous success as a result of the extra spending and extra shelf space.
As cities grew and suburbs took over the countryside, the world of entertainment was becoming a much bigger business. At the start of 1910, local theaters showed 8-minute silent “shorts” on a rotating schedule throughout the day. By the end of the decade, many of those same theaters were screening feature-length films featuring some of the very first modern American celebrities, such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
As the public was searching for more and more thrilling forms of entertainment, the 1910s also saw a spike in attendance at professional baseball games, which was the dominant public sport in the United States at the time, as well as the increasingly-popular lineup of circuses and traveling shows. In the world of flavored gum, the uptick in spectator entertainment meant more people snacking and chewing, the increased focus on childhood leisure meant more sweets being bought, and the advent of serious celebrity meant celebrity endorsements.
Though U.S. Prohibition, which was a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages across the country, did not officially begin until 1920, the culture wars that led to this reached their peak at the end of the 1910s. Prohibition supporters, known as "drys," became more numerous and more organized as the movement progressed, eventually crowding out the "wet" opposition in many parts of the country.
By this time, Clove gum, which first hit shelves in 1914, was already making a name for itself as a spice-flavored chewing gum with a pleasantly strong smell for freshening your breath. So, even though the gum industry was already booming, Clove gum had an additional selling point that would even find its way into the gum’s original slogan: “the gum that takes your breath away!"