Today's useless fact - Who invented chewing gum?
Humans have been chewing on something since the dawn of history,
usually sap (resin) from various trees or wax. In 1848, John
Curtis made the first gum in the United States when he cooked
resin from a spruce tree on his wood-burning stove. In 1869, the
first patent issued for chewing gum was given to William Semple,
a dentist in Ohio, who invented a gum to exercise the jaws and
stimulate the gums. It never sold, probably because it was made
primarily of rubber.
The invention of gum, as we know it today, came about because
of the friendship of two men, Thomas Adams, a photographer,
and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who had defeated the Texans at
the Alamo. When Santa Anna was exiled from Mexico, he lived with
Adams on Staten Island, New York. Adams had tried different
schemes to make money but all had failed. Santa Anna told him of
an idea that could make Adams wealthy. He told him of a gummy
substance that people in Mexico had been chewing for thousands of
years. It was called chicle, the milky sap from the sapodilla
tree that grows in the tropical rain forests of Central America.
But gum was not on either's mind. The plan was to blend chicle
and rubber together to make cheaper tires, toys, and rainboots.
Santa Anna had his friends in Mexico ship a ton of chicle to
Adams. Although he labored for about a year, every one of his
experiments failed. He had not been able to blend chicle and
rubber. A vast amount of useless chicle was stored in his
warehouse and Adams decided to throw it all into the river.
By sheer luck, Adams happened to go into a drugstore and saw a
little girl buy some paraffin wax chewing gum. He remembered
that Santa Anna had told him that Mexicans chewed chicle.
Inspired, Adams started making unflavored pure chicle gum. It
sold extremely well and Adams built a thriving business.
Some years later, John Colgan, a drugstore owner in Louisville,
Kentucky, was selling a gum he made from balsam tree sap and
flavored with powdered sugar. He had heard of how successful
Thomas Adams was, so he ordered 100 pounds of chicle. He started
making Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum, which was so successful that he
sold his drugstore and devoted his time to manufacturing chewing
gum. A breakthrough in gum manufacture occurred when a popcorn
salesman, William J. White, started experimenting with a barrel
of chicle a friend had given him. He discovered how to flavor
gum. Chicle does not absorb flavors, but sugar does. He combined
flavors, such as peppermint, with corn syrup and then blended the
mixture with the chicle. In 1899, the major gum manufacturers
united to become the American Chicle Company. William White was
president and Thomas Adams, Jr., was chairman of the board. You
might see some of their brands today, such as Black Jack and
Beeman's. People have been chewing gum ever since.
William Wrigley, Jr. (the founder of Wrigley Gum) devised a
marketing technique that caused sales of his gum to soar. He
mailed one stick of gum to every person in teh United States who
was listed in the phone book.