How We Have Bubble Gum Today

The Evolution of Chewing Gum Over Time

Bubble Gum Machine
Bubble Gum Machine. Getty Images

In the early 1900s, Americans could not get enough of the modern-day variation on the lip-smacking confection called bubble or chewing gum popularized by Thomas Adams. The popular treat has a long history and has come in many forms over time.

Earliest Record of Chewing Gum

A variation of chewing gum has been used by ancient civilizations and cultures around the world. It is believed that the earliest evidence we have of chewing gum dates back to the Neolithic period.

Archeologists discovered 6,000-year-old chewing gum made from birch bark tar, with tooth imprints in Finland. The tar from which the gums were made is believed to have antiseptic properties and other medicinal benefits.

Ancient Cultures 

Several ancient cultures used chewing gum regularly. It is known that the ancient Greeks chewed mastiche, a chewing gum made from the resin of the mastic tree. The ancient Mayans chewed chicle, which is the sap of the sapodilla tree.

Modernization of Chewing Gum

In addition to the ancient Greeks and Mayans, chewing gum can be traced back to a variety of civilizations around the world, including the Eskimos, South Americans, Chinese and Indians from South Asia. The modernization and commercialization of this product mainly took place in the United States. Native Americans chewed resin made from the sap of spruce trees. In 1848, American John B. Curtis picked up on this practice and made and sold the first commercial chewing gum called the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.

Two years later, Curtis started selling flavored paraffin gums, which became more popular than spruce gums.

In 1869, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna introduced Thomas Adams to chicle, as a rubber substitute. It did not take off as a use for rubber, instead, Adams cut chicle into strips and he marketed it as Adams New York Chewing Gum in 1871.

Potential Health Benefits

Gum can be credited for several health benefits, such as potentially increasing cognition and brain function after chewing the gum. An additive and sugar substitute xylitol has been found to reduce cavities and plaque in teeth.  Another known effect of chewing gum is that it increases saliva production. Increased saliva can be a good way to keep the mouth fresh, which is helpful for reducing halitosis (bad breath).

Increased saliva production has also been found to be helpful following surgery involving the digestive system and for the possible reduction of digestive disorders, such as GERD, also known as acid reflux.

Timeline of Gum in Modern Times

DateChewing Gum Innovation
December 28, 1869William Finley Semple became the first person to patent a chewing gum, U.S. patent No. 98,304
1871Thomas Adams patented a machine for the manufacture of gum
1880John Colgan invented a way to make chewing gum taste better for a longer period of time while being chewed
1888Adams' chewing gum called Tutti-Frutti became the first chew to be sold in a vending machine. The machines were located in a New York City subway station.
1899Dentyne gum was created by New York druggist Franklin V. Canning
1906Frank Fleer invented the first bubble gum called Blibber-Blubber gum. However, the bubble blowing chew was never sold.
1914Wrigley Doublemint brand was created. William Wrigley, Jr. and Henry Fleer were responsible for adding the popular mint and fruit extracts to a chicle chewing gum
1928Walter Diemer, employee of Fleer's company, invented the successful pink colored Double Bubble bubble gum
1960sU.S. manufacturers switched to butadiene-based synthetic rubber as a base for gum, because it was cheaper to manufacture