Author Susan Benton

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Gum

When you think of chewing gum, one name comes to mind most often: Wrigley. William Wrigley Jr. is important to the story, but he did not invent chewing gum. People had been chewing a variety of substances for thousands of years. One was chicle, a latex taken from the sapodilla tree.

An exiled Mexican president thought chicle might be vulcanized and turned into a rubber-like product. He enlisted the help of American inventor Thomas Adams Sr. After many attempts, Adams gave up.

But Adams did decide to explore the original use of chicle as something to chew. Others were selling chewing gum in the U.S. Some used spruce tree resin, which didn't always taste the best and often turned brittle. Some turned to paraffin-based products.

At first, Adams boiled and hand-rolled the chicle into balls which he wrapped in tissue paper. People bought it. And bought it. And bought it. He then patented a machine to do the work and by the late 1880s he manufactured 5 tons per day. Chicle-based chewing gum took over.

William Wrigley's contribution to the gum-chewing world was to begin massive advertising campaigns of his new flavors: Juicy Fruit and Spearmint. It was his marketing strategies that made him one of the richest men in the nation by the turn of the 20th century. The Wrigley Company survived until 2008 when it was purchased by Mars Incorporated.

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(Photo:By Wrigley's [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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BOOKS

CHICLE: THE CHEWING GUM OF THE AMERICAS by Jennifer P. MathewsS

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