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On This Day in History: Chewing Gum Was Invented

On This Day in History: Chewing Gum Was Invented

Let’s learn about the history of chewing gum.

On this day in 1869, dentist William Finley Semple (1832-1923) received the first U.S. patent for chewing gum.  Semple’s manufacturing process included dissolving vegetable gums in naphtha and alcohol until they reached a jelly-like texture.  From there, he mixed in powdered chalk, powdered licorice root, and other substances to offer the mixture texture and flavor.  He then removed the solvents and allowed the mixture to harden, creating a chewy gum.  As a dentist, Semple intended his gum not for recreation, but as a means of keeping teeth clean and healthy.  The chalk was means to scrub away food particles and dental plaque, while the licorice root and other flavorings were meant to freshen breath.

To mark the anniversary of the invention of chewing gum, let’s enjoy these interesting facts about one of America’s favorite treats.

  • The American colonists chewed the gum-like sap or resin that oozed out of cuts in the bark of spruce trees. Before them, Native Americans were known to chew this early form of gum.  People later chewed paraffin wax sweetened with sugar and honey.
  • Modern chewing gum emerged from a series of failed attempts by the American inventor, Thomas Adams, to use chicle as a substitute for rubber in various toys and rain gear. After a chance encounter with a young child at a drug store, he was inspired to use this remaining chicle to create chewing gum.
  • Chicle is a natural gum found in the sapodilla tree. However, because chicle is very expensive, other natural gums and chewy synthetic materials are used in chewing gum today.
  • Wrigley’s gum first started when William Wrigley Jr. offered merchants free chewing gum with each can of his baking powder. Soon, the gum grew more popular than the baking powder.  Capitalizing on this, Wrigley started selling two of the most popular gums in history (Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum) in 1893.
  • Americans spend more than $2 billion of chewing gum every year.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum is actually good for your teeth. Studies have shown that chewing gum can help fight tooth decay and help prevent the erosion of tooth enamel.

Join us at The Maria Sanchez Show as we celebrate the anniversary of the invention of chewing gum.  Don’t forget to check out our latest program, Shadow Politics with Senator Michael D. Brown.  Tune in on Sundays at 4:00 p.m. PST/7:00 p.m. EST.

 

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