Chewing Or Blowing Bubbles: The History Of Gum

The origins of gum chewing can be traced back to many of the ancient civilisations. It seems it was simply an instinct to chew that became habit, rather than flavour or any sort of physical need. But it is also thought that these natural resins offered antiseptic and analgesic qualities which may have been comforting in the days before dentists. 

We’ve been at it for at least 6,000 years, this chewing habit. Evidence of birch bark tar in the form of gum, found in Finland, has been dated to be from this age. The ancient Mayans are known to have favoured the coagulated sap of Sapodilla whilst the Greeks were more partial to chewing Mastiche. North American Indians enjoyed gum created from the sap of Spruce trees. The Aztecs are thought to have not only used Chicle (a natural tree gum) for chewing, but also as a sort of early ‘super glue’ for repairs and making tools.

The United States Of America is commonly believed to have created the first commercial chewing gum. The settlers in New England seem to have picked up on the chewing habits of the native population and then commercialised it with The State Of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.

To sweeten these early gums, dishes of powdered sugar were kept to hand and people would regularly dip their gum in this before continuing to chew. 

A Kentucky pharmacist, John Colgan is credited with both the commercial marketing of Chicle based gum and also developing the first flavoured chewing sticks. He named this sweetened gum Taffy Tolu, for reasons best known to himself. 

Two popular gums which are still around today are Black Jack, which is flavoured chewy licorice (dating back to 1884) and Wrigley’s Spearmint (which can also be traced back to the 19th century). Adams and Sons (who created Black Jack) created some experimental flavours such as soured orange. 

Also in the 19th century was the first gum to be sold from a vending machine (in a New York subway station), Tutti Frutti and Wrigleys were offering a fruity choice (which has survived the test of time) called Juicy Fruit.  

During the first half of the 20th century, the gum craze gradually spread around the world. Wrigley’s factories started appearing in many countries, including the UK, Canada and Australia. It was during this time that the still popular Double Mint was created.

What about Bubble Gum?

In 1928 the Fleer Gum Company stumbled upon bubble gum as they experimented with rubber products. They christened this Double Bubble, a name we are all familiar with.

By way of showing how times have changed, the Topps Company originally offered a single cigarette with their bubble gum. They became more popular when they changed this to cards depicticating the baseball stars of the day. 

Here at Bulk Wholesale Sweets we have a great selection of gums featuring classics alongside modern takes on the chewing tradition. Get in touch today to talk about stocking up on all your favourite gums.