Bite Sized History – Chewing Gum

various colored bubble gum balls

Thomas Adams, often referred to as “The Father of Gum,” is said to have first tried to mix chicle (a natural gum base that had been chewed in Mexico for generations) with rubber to create a cheaper product for carriage wheels. After experimenting without success, it’s believed he overheard a little girl ordering chewing gum at a drugstore and then decided to use the chicle for chewing gum. At that time, chewing gum was made from paraffin wax. Adams bet that his chicle would be a popular substitute. His wager paid off.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a drugstore owner named John Colgan sold gum from the balsam tree, flavored with powdered sugar. After Adams’ son (who was a traveling salesman) paid Colgan a visit, he was sold on the merits of using chicle gum instead. Using the new chicle gum imported from Mexico, Colgan introduced a new, flavored gum called “Colgan’s Taffy Tolu Chewing Gum.” The product became an overnight success.