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History of Chewing Gum and Bubble Gum

An Overview of the History of Chewing Gum and Bubble Gum

Chewing gum has been one of the most favorite pastimes for people of all ages. Such is the craving for one of the oldest known candies, that over 4 billion gums are sold all over the world each year.
Nilesh Parekh
Last Updated: Feb 17, 2018
Big Bubble!
Susan Montgomery Williams of California, USA, holds the world record for the largest bubble ever blown by chewing a bubble gum, which was a whopping 23 inches in diameter (1994).
How many times do you find people, children, and especially teenagers, subconsciously moving their mouth in a chewing action, occasionally following that up with blowing a bubble, which eventually bursts, appends to their lips, and goes right back in their mouth, only for the entire process to start all over again? Quite often, right! Welcome to the world of chewing gums and bubble gums. And it is not a new phenomenon by any means.
Archaeologists and historians have discovered that men and women have been chewing gum for over a thousand years in the form of tree resin lumps. Tree resin was believed to have medicinal properties, and hence, chewing them and rubbing them against the teeth aided in cleansing the mouth, as they acted as a mouth freshener. American-Indians chewed a kind of resin that was made from the liquid emerging out of spruce trees. This formed the basis for the manufacturing of the first chewing gum that was sold commercially.
1840 - 1890
The man behind this invention was John B. Curtis. In 1848, he experimented on spruce tree resin, and made a sticky, rubbery material. It was chewable, and presented an opportunity for commercial success. Two years after his successful experiment with the spruce tree resin, which he converted into gum, he started with his first major gum manufacturing plant. He also added flavor to the gum and introduced paraffin into it to give it an extra-soft and rubbery feel. The factory was named 'Curtis Chewing Gum Factory'.
But it wasn't until after a decade that chewing gum started possessing the modern-day features. This feat was achieved when a class of latex exuded by Mesoamerican trees, known as chicle, was exported from Mexico to be used as an alternative for rubber. Though it could not quite accomplish that, it served as the foundation for the Fleer brothers, Henry Fleer and Frank Fleer, who experimented with it, processed it, and made cubes of the substance which they coated with sweet material. They named their invention Chiclets.
1890 - 1950
One of the biggest players in the business of manufacturing chewing gum was and still is the Chicago-based William Junior Wrigley Company, or more popularly known as Wrigley. It was founded by William Wrigley in 1892. Wrigley chewing gum became especially popular during the Second World War, when the organization donated gum to the American soldiers as a means to relieve war-related stress.
Bubble gum came into existence in the early twentieth century, when in 1906, Frank Fleer invented the first bubble gum. However, it never sold due to some flaws in its manufacturing. The man who perfected Fleer's recipe was Walter Diemer. In 1928, he discovered the method to produce a gum that was relatively less adhesive and more flexible than other types of gum. This laid the foundation of the modern-day bubble gum.
Present Day
Today, there are various types of gum available in the market, ranging from ordinary chewing and bubble to gum used for medical purposes. Ingredients in these medical gums are also good for oral hygiene, and hence, they are referred to as dental gums. Some manufacturers introduced pepsin to their gum, which promises relief from indigestion and heartburn.
Currently, there are more than a hundred gum manufacturing companies competing with each other through continuous innovations and unique offerings. According to the London-based market intelligence firm Euromonitor International Ltd, in 2006, the chewing gum industry was estimated to be worth $19 billion in sales.
In recent decades, there were some widespread allegations that demoralized people from eating chewing gum. Few among such rumors were that if we chew gum, we attract cancer, our facial muscles go on deteriorating, our intestines stick together as an effect of chewing on gum, etc. But the figures above quite clearly convey that gum production has never seen a downfall, and people still enjoy chewing on gum.
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