GUM! GUM is America!
Apple pie is really French, hot dogs are German, and even chipmunks have Moms. But GUM! Ain't nothin' as American as GUM, except maybe Ain't itself.
When the GIs liberated Europe and drove their tanks through all those cheering villages, what did the cheering villagers cheer? "Lafayette we are here?" "I like Ike?"
No, they shouted "GUM!"
Oh sure, everyone chews it - the world buys a billion dollars worth a year - and it was invented by the Mayans nearly two thousand years ago. The Mayans even gave it a name, tsictle, which is to say, chicle. But you know and I know that if there hadn't been an America there wouldn't be GUM as we know it today. Americans chew (and abandon) four out of every five sticks sold. To be precise, $600 million worth of straight stuff and $200 million in bubble-gum.
Presenting a Variety-Pak of information about GUM: Thank You, Bob Hendrickson
And I quote:
"The Mayans manufactured it . . .
The Apaches, Comanches and Kennebecs chomped on it . . .
Columbus discovered it along with this brave new world . . .
Francis Parkman, seeking the origins of America, patched his canoe with it . . .
Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher chewed on the same piece of it . . .
England's King Edward VII was offered a hunk of it and nearly fainted . . .
Anna Held, America's "Won't You Come Play With Me" girl, took communal milk baths chawing wads of it . . .
Anthony Comstock, prince of prudes, supressed it . . .
Emily Post refused to even mention it . . .
Queen Sophia of Greece prescribed it for her troops . . .
Admiral Byrd chewed it for his nerves at the South Pole . . .
Mayor Fiorello Henry LaGuardia cleaned New Yorkers' shoes of it . . .
Jeremy Boob, Ph. D., repaired the Beatles' yellow submarine with it . . .
Astronaut munched on it in outer space . . .
Mickey Mantle blithely blew bubbles with it in the outfield . . .
Joe Namath blithely blows bubbles with it in the backfield.
Socialites now chew it . . .
Sandy ladies still love it . . .
Kids are weaned on it . . .
Eskimos prefer it to blubber . . .
Headhunters have ransomed people for it . . .
Lyndon rarely chawed it, but he claimed . . .
Gerald Ford couldn't chew it and walk at the same time."
(This outburst comes to courtesy of Robert Hendrickson, whose book "The Great American Chewing Gum Book" of 1976 is put out by the Chilton Book Co. of Radnor, Pa.) Mary
We had a nurse named Mary who wore a beret and a single bob and skirts down to her skins in the '30s. She chewed GUM with her teeth showing and she could make bubbles with any brand. She taught us how to snap it. We snapped GUM with out teeth showing until our mother saw us. A Short History of Gum
It comes from dried latex drained off the sapodilla trees of Latin America (or used to until they found a synthetic) and is kneaded together with hot sugar syrup.
People have always chewed things: betel nuts, cola nuts, frankincense, tobacco, mastic, flavored paraffin and spruce-gum magnate. John B. Curtis was the first spruce-gum magnate. He boiled up batches of State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum in a kettle and started America chewing.
But the real story begins with chicle, which is the dried latex. In 1869 Mexican Gen. Santa Anna, the Alamo man, exiled to Staten Island, talked one Thomas Adams Sr. of New Jersey into buying a ton of the stuff so he could invent a substitute for rubber. It didn't work. Wouldn't bounce or erase.
Just as Adams was about to throw out the blackish mass he remembered that Indians used to the chicle, so he heated some to a light gray, rolled it into 200 little balls and tried it on the nearest druggist.
The druggist sold all 200 by noon.
Thomas Adams Sr. was on his way. By 1871 he had learned to flavor the chicle with licorice to produce Black Jack, the oldest GUM still on the market.
It was Adams who invented the stick form we know today.
It was William Wrigley Jr. who really put it on the map, however, and he is so important that he needs a special section. The Wrigley Section
I mean, the kid could sell. He was a selling fool. At 13 he quit his $1.50-a-week job in his dad's soap factory and went on the road. Spent two hours with his first customer, finally wore him down. In a few years he was selling soap faster than the factory could make it.
He got into GUM at age 31 in 1892 with a product called Lotta, ran it up into a $95 million-a-year business, the largest of all the 526 GUM companies in the world.
Juicy Fruit and Spearmint came on in 1894, Doublemint in 1914, P.K. in 1921, Freedent in 1974 and most recently Bid Red.
But Wrigley's real contribution to the business was his discovery of advertising. "Tell 'Em Quick and Tell 'Em Often." He gave away premiums to dealers: From fur rugs to baby carriages. He built a 3-mile billboard along the city railroad outside Atlantic City. In the panic of 1907 he borrowed $1 million to put his ads in every trolley car in America. Spearmint sales jumped from $170,000 to $1,345,000 in a single year. Twice he sent free GUM to every name listed in every phone book in the country. He had girls give away sticks on streetcorners, 5,000 a day each.
One promotion he did not go for, incidentally, was baseball cards. These started in the '30s, an offshoot of cigarette cards, and they started with a bang: Bowman's famous War Gum series, consisting of gory vignettes that eventually drew an international protest from Japan. Topps did a plane spotter series in World War II, and their Davy Crockett cards sold 300 million packs. Today Topps is into stickers with the Wacky Packs. The Psychology of Gum
Everyone has a theory. H. L. Hollingworth says in 'Psycho-Dynamics of Chewing" that it combats nervous tension. Various people say it cleans the teeth, massages the gums, speeds digestion, encourages sex, discourages sex or presents a certain social image.
If you ask me, the real story is that GUM perfectly expresses the American mania for motion.
Ever since the Pilgrims, Americans have been on the move, first to the West and then every which way in cars, buses, boats, campers, vans, trains, planes, bikes, skates, motorcycles, mopeds, subways, rollercoasters, seesaws and ferris wheels.
With a national compulsion like that, who could blame us for wanting to keep our jaws moving too? Anything's better than walking. Gum Etiquette
They used to say that the difference between a secretary and a stenographer was that a stenographer chews GUM.
They used to say chewing hardened your facial expression, made you look ordinary, tough and common.
They used to say it meant you were a prostitute, and in the movies it was a visual shorthand for a streetwalker or gangster or some kind of bad-news character.
They used to say that dime novels were "the chewing-gum of literature," which sounds like something you could sue for.
They used to say it meant you were stupid. "Not all dullards the GUM, but all chewers are dullards."
Today, etiquette writers merely concentrate on suggesting ways to chew in a genteel fashion. Maybe they were so grossed out by bubble-gum that the regular kind looked okay. The Secret Formula
No one tells exactly what goes into his product, but basically GUM is 60 per cent sugar, 19 per cent corn syrup - explaining why one stick has 8 to 10 calories - 20 per cent GUM base and softeners, mostly if not entirely synthetic these days, and 1 per cent flavor.
Nearly all the sugar chews away in the first two minutes, when you reach what we call the Spit Barrier: at this point the restless, the hypertense and the hysterical give up. A true chewer, however, will press on through this and even a second barrier, the 10-minute mark, when taste virtually disappears. At that stage it ceases to be merely a confection and becomes a friend.
About calories: Did You Know that even sugaries GUM has calories? Right. American Chicle Co.'s Trident - the No. 1 selling chewer in America - has 4 1/2 calories per stick.
Sugarless products are the big thing in today's market: No. 2 seller is Doublemint, to be sure, but No. 3 is Beechnut's Carefree, using saccharin and including 7 calories. No. 4 is the liquid interior Freshen Up, and Spearmint is No. 5
So don't feel you're getting away scot-free with your sugaries GUM. They all have some calories. And if you think you're confused about the sugarless situation, you're not alone. The industry itself is going bonkers to find substitutes for the still-legal saccharin. Letting Go
To remove GUM from your jacket, harden it with ice or rubbing alcohol and lift away gently.
To remove from your shoe, take off shoe and attack with knife. Scraping will get you nowhere. Beautiful But Gum
I worked on a paper once where they had this girl in Classified who was so dumb that when she took an ad for a GUM Vending Machine, she put it in the paper as a GUM Bending Machine. A Guinness Book of Gum
The Soviet Union is now producting 28,000 tons a year of Zhevatelnaya Rezinka, the catchily-titled official state GUM. No relation to the department store.
First Gum in space was brought out by Gemini 5 in 1965. It was Trident sugarless.
Topps' Bazooka bubble-gum comes with a miniature comic foreign-language course.
William Wrigley was a great baseball fan and in 1916 bought the Chicago Cubs. He invented Ladies Day and put his free-sample technique to work by broadcasting games.
Wrigley, who said "Nothing is so much fun as business," lived to see his gum wrappers printed in 37 languages.
South Korea markets ginseng-flavored GUM.
The big flashing Wrigley's sign on Times Square coast $104,000 a year in bulbs and electricity. A Personality Parade
A Louisville druggist, John Colgan, first flavored chicle with sweet balsam in 1879 and sold it as Colgan's Taffy-Tolu Chewing Gum. He had kids hawking it on the streets, and before his bubble burst he had a dozen imitators making the stuff, all with the same name.
Dr. Edward E. Beeman had a great idea: mix his Pepsin digestive powder with GUM. The only trouble was he didn't have any sense. He used a wrapper with a picture of a pig on it (you could eat like a pig if you ate Pepsin), and nobody would buy. Finally he was persuaded to put his own picture on the wrapper instead of the pig, and for a while there he was almost as famous as the Smith Brothers.
It was a candymaking genius, William J. White, who found that by adding a lot of corn syrup you could make chicle combine with almost any flavoring.
He pioneered peppermint GUM, still the dominant flavor on the market, and wiped out the Taffy-Tolu people. His Yucatan brand brought him $5 million and a mansion in Cleveland. He went to Congress on the strength of it, and it was he who upset Edward VII so: "Here, try a piece, Ed . . ." (Americans could be like that in those days.)
The Rockefeller of GUM was Charles Ranlett Flint, who in 1899 put together a trust of the five biggest firms: Adams, Beeman, White, Britten and Primley. He left the giant American Chiclo Co. in the hands of Thomas Adams Jr. and went on the bigger things.
Frank Fleer, whose kid brother invented Chiclets, made the first bubble-gum in 1906, but it was terrible, it plastered all over your face, and anyway it was called Blibber-Blubber.
Not until 1928 did a smart young accountant named Walter Diemer change the formula by sheer trial and error to come up with a nonplastering bubble. He colored it pink because that was the only food coloring he happened to have around. It's still pink. Even Bob Hendrickson's book is pink. Gum In Song and Story
"When you see a mug
"Lately out of the jug.
"And he's still lifting diamond and platinum . . .
"Call it hell, call it heaven,
"Oh, it's better than twelve to seven
"That the guy's only do it for some GUM."
Frank Loesser (sort of)
"The GUM's the thing
"Werein I'll catch the conscience of the King . . ."
Hamlet of Denmark
"All that glisters is not GUM."
"GUM is love."
WAIT, I FORGOT GUMBALLS! . . . SOMEBODY STOP ME . . .