Modern Chewing Gum

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Many people also chew on naturally occurring waxes, including paraffin, a by-product of petroleum, and it was a penny piece of paraffin chew named White Mountain that was serendipitously responsible for the creation of modern chewing gum. In the 1860s Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who was several times president of Mexico and conqueror of the Alamo, had 1 ton of chicle sent from Mexico to his friend Thomas Adams Sr. in Manhattan. The plan was that the inventive Adams might discover a way to combine chicle with the sap of the rubber tree to create a less expensive blend for the making of carriage bumpers and tires. After a year of experimentation, Adams and his eldest son Thomas Jr. deemed the experiments a failure and were ready to discard the chicle when Adams Sr. happened upon a young girl asking a druggist for a penny’s worth of chewing gum—the aforementioned White Mountain—and he was struck with an idea for salvaging his chicle. The Adamses began offering chicle gumballs on consignment and met success. They expanded quickly, renting a building in Jersey City, New Jersey, where they employed a few dozen young women to hand-wrap pure, unflavored chicle in colored tissue paper and package it in boxes bearing a color picture of New York’s City Hall and environs. The new commercial product was named Adams New York No. 1 Chewing Gum, and the machine they devised to make it was awarded a patent on 14 February 1871. In 1879 William White created the first flavored chicle chewing gum by adding peppermint.