Who Invented Gum? Here’s the Answer

Aside from the occasional, “Hey, how did this stuff get stuck to the bottom of my shoe?” we don’t usually ask questions about chewing gum. Well, guess what? It’s our job to dig as deep on things like gum, and darn it, we’re going to do it! Let’s find out all about the origin story of gum. (And if you’re wondering how gum is made, we looked into that, too.)

Who invented gum?

Gum has a fascinating history, with its origins traced back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks chewed a substance called “mastiche,” derived from the resin of the mastic tree. Native Americans also chewed sap from spruce trees. However, modern chewing gum as we know it emerged in the 19th century. 

There are a couple of dudes who are credited with the invention of modern day chewing gum. First up, let’s talk about inventor Thomas Adams. He stumbled upon chicle, a sap from Central American sapodilla trees, and attempted to create rubber with it. When that failed, he turned it into gum and patented a chewing gum machine in 1871. He later went on to work with a certain William Wrigley Jr. to create the American Chicle Company. 

There’s also John Bacon Curtis. In the late 1840s, Curtis developed the first commercial spruce tree chewing gum by boiling resin, cutting it into strips, then coating them in cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together. He called it State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. By the early 1850s, Curtis had built the world’s first chewing gum factory in Portland, Maine. (Not to be confused with the “Already Been Chewed” Gum Factory I tried to start on my elementary school playground.)   

When was gum invented?

So, when was chewing gum invented? It depends on who you credit with the invention. But, let’s just say some time in the mid-1800s. 

Why was gum invented?

The invention of gum was not a deliberate pursuit but rather a series of accidental discoveries with diverse origins. Ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Native Americans chewed various natural substances for enjoyment and dental hygiene. While gum’s initial purpose was not intentional, its invention has since been embraced for pleasure, stress relief, and, thankfully for first dates everywhere, freshening breath! 

When was bubble gum invented?

Bubble gum, a whimsical offshoot of traditional chewing gum, emerged in the early 20th century. In 1928, an employee at the Fleer Chewing Gum Company, stumbled upon the right formula while experimenting with gum recipes. 

Who invented bubble gum?

Walter Diemer, an accountant working for the Frank H. Fleer Gum Company, was the employee in question who discovered bubblegum by accident while experimenting in the lab during his breaks. He colored his invention pink (because it was the only food coloring available at the time), wrapped pieces up using a salt water taffy machine, and sold a sample batch at a local candy shop. His bubble gum sold out in a day. Fleer, seeing dollar signs, began selling Diemer’s bubble gum as Dubble Bubble. And the money rolled in. Diemer himself taught salesmen how to blow bubbles. And while he didn’t patent his invention, Diemer did gain enough notoriety to earn a joke on a Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live upon his death. Colin Quinn joked that, “his body was found stuck under a movie seat.” 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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