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A Brief Timeline of Chewing Gum History

Since 7,000 BC: In ancient times, northern Europeans chewed birch bark for medicinal and recreational purposes. The Maya and Aztecs used chicle, a latex derived from the sapodilla tree, to quench thirst, fight hunger, freshen breath, and for fun. (Social rules governed chewing: According to Smithsonian, “adult women who dared to chew chicle in public were viewed as harlots, while men who did so were “effeminates.”) And native North Americans chewed spruce tree resin, a habit that incoming Europeans adopted.

1840s: The first commercial spruce tree gum is produced by John B. Curtis, who opens the world’s first chewing gum factory in Portland, Maine. Spruce gum never really takes off—it doesn’t really taste that good and turns brittle.

1850s: Exiled Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna connects with New York inventor Thomas Adams in the hopes of using chicle to develop an alternative to rubber. It doesn’t pan out, but Adams realizes he has something interesting on his hands and starts experimenting with chicle as a gum ingredient. He founds the American Chicle Company, which will market Chiclets by the early 1900's.

1893: Chicago soap salesman William Wrigley Jr. launches Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint after realizing people are more interested in the free gum he includes with other products.

1915: Wrigley sends free samples to millions of people out of the phone book, and to children on their second birthdays.

1920s: The average American chews 105 sticks of gum a year, creating a massive demand for chicle; unsustainable harvesting costs Mexico a quarter of its sapodilla trees by the mid-1930s. “Fortunately for the trees (but unfortunately for Latin American economies), chewing gum manufacturers soon began switching to cheaper, synthetic bases made from petroleum, wax and other substances,” according to Smithsonian.

1928: After several failed attempts at creating a gum that can be blown into bubbles (including a Silly-Putty-esque substance called Blibber-Blubber) the Frank H. Fleer company finally hits on a successful formula: Dubble Bubble. Click to view the complete History of Dubble Bubble.

Source: Quartz