Thomas Adams - Inventor of the First Modern Chewing Gum

Thomas Adams

American scientist and inventor Thomas Adams is today remembered as the most important man in the history of the chewing gum industry. Before his invention of modern mass produced chewing gum, there was many others examples of chewing gum uses trough millennia's. First finding of gum was found in 5000 years old human settlements in Finland. In those distant times, many old cultures (Aztecs, Ancient Greeks and Egyptians) used several types of chewing gum as a mouth freshener and medicinal accessory.

First widespread use of chewing gum by modern civilization happened in early 1800s when English settlements picked up the chewing practice from Native Americans. Several inventors started selling chewing gum between 1840 and 4870, most notably John B. Curtis (who is today regarded for beginning of commercial chewing gum use) and William Semple (who filed first patent on chewing gum in late 1869).

Big change in chewing gum industry came with Thomas Adams (1818-1905). During his lifetime, he worked as a photographer, glassmaker and inventor, but his only great invention was made during 1850s. During that time, he worked as a secretary to the Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794-1876), where he noticed that Santa Ana often chewed gum of local tree Manilkara Chicle. Its natural gun had great potential and soon with the help of Santa Ana Adams started his experiments in hope to create some commercial viable product. Their goal was first to create cheap alternative to then very expensive rubber tires. After a year of unsuccessful trials, he gave up on the idea of Chicle based rubber. Then he remembered that Santa Ana and indigenous population of Mexico enjoyed chewing of chicle gum for the past few thousand years. First batch of chewing gums were vastly superior to then popular paraffin wax gum that was widely used in American pharmacies during that time. Together with his eldest son Tom Jr., Adams made first batch of modern chewing gums that he named "Adams New York No.1". He molded them in small gumballs that were wrapped in different colored tissue papers.

After initial success, Tomas Adams decided to expand his business. He established small manufacturing workplace where he employed 40 working girls and patented machine to manufacture gum. His business grew and soon he hit several big landmarks. In 1871, Adams made first flavored gum in the world called "Black Jack" that had the taste of liquorice. In 1888, his gum company installed first wending machine (located in New York subway station) which sold his flavored chewing gums Black Jack and Tutti-Frutti. During next year, Thomas Adams formed new company called "American ChicleCompany", which merged six largest American chewing gum manufacturers. He remained a member on its board directors until 1905 when he died.

Thomas Adams will forever be remembered as the father of modern day chewing gum industry, and today American people annually consume over 195 million pounds of chewing gum.