For most of the world, the 1940s were dominated by the far-reaching and increasingly global conflicts of World War II. Not surprisingly, though, chewing gum still found its own special place in American society. Nearly every field ration handed out to American troops during wartime contained a small pack of chewing gum, and everyone back home were searching for cheap treats and indulgences during a time when both resources and money were scarce.
Keep reading on for more of what it was like to chew gum in the United States throughout the 1940s.
As mentioned previously, chewing gum was a big part of the government’s efforts to keep its troops fed and comfortable during wartime. Small creature comforts, such as chewing gum, chocolate, and cigarettes, were regularly added to field rations as a means of keeping soldiers sane. In fact, it’s estimated that the average U.S. serviceman or servicewoman from the 1940s chewed over 600 sticks of gum by the end of the war.
As a result, chewing gum became profoundly linked to the military in the eyes of the public. Many gum advertisements began capitalizing on feelings of patriotism, often by featuring soldiers in their ads or referencing their gum’s connection to the war effort.
While World War II was rampaging across Europe and the Pacific, many new mint-flavored gums were vying for the attention of everyone still living and working back in the States. By the end of the 1930s, thanks to actress Claudette Colbert, chewing gum was already becoming a well-known lifestyle item for adults—a tiny treat to keep with you to help freshen up your breath at a moment’s notice.
With so many adult men off fighting overseas, the gum industry doubled down on its message to younger women. Many companies began matching their chewing gums with more ladylike celebrities who could cultivate the image of chewing gum as a beauty product—a necessity for the modern woman.