Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has existed in numerous forms  since at least the Neolithic period.  Five thousand year old chewing gum made from birch bark tar (complete with tooth marks), was discovered in Finland. The bark tar from which the chewing gum was made is thought to have antiseptic properties and other medicinal properties.  The ancient Aztecs used chicle as a base for making a gum like substance. Women used this gum as a mouth freshener. Forms of chewing gums are known to have also been used in ancient Greece. The Greeks chewed mastic gum, made from the resin of the mastic tree.  Many other cultures have chewed gum like substances made from a range of plants, grasses, and resins. The North American Indians chewed resin made from the sap of spruce trees. The New England settlers picked up this practice, and in 1848, John B. Curtis developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum called The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. Around 1850 a gum made from paraffin wax was developed and soon surpassed the spruce gum in popularity. William Semple claimed an early patent for chewing gum in 1869.

Modern chewing gum was initially developed in the 1860’s when chicle was exported from Mexico as a rubber substitute. Chicle did not succeed as a replacement for rubber, but as a gum it was quickly adopted and due to newly established companies such as Adams New York Chewing Gum (1871), Black Jack (1884) and Chiclets (1899), it rapidly dominated the chewing gum market. Chicle gum had a smoother and softer texture and held flavourings better. Most chewing gum companies have since switched to artificial gum bases because of their lower cost and ready availability.


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