Chewing gum: a staple for middle school social interactions, currency amongst the candy eaters, and comfort for those after Everything bagels (maybe. Just us?). But where did chewing gum come from? We’re not talking about the foil, pack, or store, but the real deal idea that gives all of us something to chew on.
Learn more about the origin of chewing gum below!
Ancient Uses for Chewing Gum
Chewing gum has existed in some form, flavor, or for a specific purpose since ancient times. In Ancient Greece, they chewed Mastiche to freshen their breath. The chewy material was made of resin from the bark of the mastic tree, which is native to Greece and Turkey.
On the other side of the world, the Ancient Mayans chewed the coagulated sap of the Sapodilla tree as a way to “quench thirst or fight hunger” (The History Channel, 2015). They also used it as an adhesive. Further north, Native Americans chewed the sap from spruce trees. European colonizers eventually followed the same practice.
The First Commercial Chewing Gum
In 1848, John Bacon Curtis tried boiling spruce tree resin to create a soft, rubbery chewing gum. He cut it into strips that were coated in cornstarch to keep them separated for convenient chewing sticks. By the early 1850s, Curtis had constructed the world’s first chewing gum factory.
Curtis Chewing Gum Factory was established in Portland, Maine, and with help from his brother, they developed State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum, the first commercial chewing gum (Chewing Gum Facts, 2023).
Adding Some Flavor to History
More commercial chewing gums continued to appear throughout history, but there was a catch: none of these gums held much flavor.
In 1869, Thomas Adams bought chicle from exiled Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Chicle, the milky latex of the sapodilla tree, was similar to what the Mayans had chewed and used.
Adams bought chicle to use like rubber in toys, shoes, and other inventions. After failing to break into the rubber business, though, he secured a patent on a gum-making machine and started experimenting with chicle-based gums. He started adding flavors and created a licorice-flavored gum called Black Jack —the first flavored gum in the United States, and now, one of our beloved Vintage Gums!
Be a Part of History with Us!
Today, there are hundreds of gums with so many different flavors, textures, and purposes. Knowing where chewing gum comes from gives us a cool look into history and connects us to the past in unique ways. We’re lucky to share Black Jack, Beemans, and Clove to help you taste history and step into the future together.
There’s always more to chewing gum with Vintage Gums. We know where chewing gum comes from, and we’re excited to keep writing this story with you!