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Black Jack Gum History
William Finley Semple of Mount Vernon, Ohio obtained the first chewing gum patent on December 28, 1869. Patent number 98,304 claimed the "combination of rubber with other articles, in any proportions adapted to the formation of an acceptable chewing gum." Semple never commercially made any chewing gum.
Development of Chicle Gum came with a big breakthrough in 1869 from another source. Exiled Mexican former president and general, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (infamous for his victory over the Alamo defenders) was living in New Jersey. He brought a ton of Mexican chicle with him, in hopes of selling it.
He persuaded Thomas Adams of Staten Island, New York to buy it. Adams was a photographer and inventor. Adams intended to vulcanize the chicle for use as a rubber substitute. But his efforts at vulcanization did not work. However, Adams noticed that Santa Anna liked to chew the chicle (the Mayans chewed chicle many years previously).
Disappointed with the rubber experiments, Adams boiled a small batch of chicle in his kitchen to create a chewing gum. He gave some to a local store to see if people would buy it. People liked his gum, and before long his business was quite successful.
In 1871 Adams received the first patent on a gum-making machine and began mass producing a chicle-based gum. His first gum ("Snapping and Stretching") was pure chicle with no flavoring, but sold well enough to encourage Adams in his plans.
He began to experiment with flavorings, beginning with sarsaparilla. In 1884, he began adding a licorice flavoring and called his invention Adams' Black Jack, the first flavored gum in America. At this time, chewing gum changed shape from lump or chunks, to sticks. It was also the first gum to be offered in sticks as we know it today. It was an instant success.
Black Jack Gum was sold well into the 1970s, when production was halted because of slow sales. Adams became part of the American Chicle Company. This company was eventually purchased by the Warner-Lambert Company, part of Pfizer. In 2003 Adams was purchased by the Cadbury Company. Cadbury Adams makes a single batch about every three years.
Black Jack Gum Memories
As a child, every summer or two my family made the drive from Virginia to rural New York to visit my great-aunt and uncle who owned a small farmhouse in the country. The 19th-century farmhouse still didn't have electricity, and we'd spend the days fishing at the nearby lake, or roaming the surrounding woods. Frequently, we drove to the small nearby town of Walton to swim in the pool and play in the park.
Once, while swinging in the park, I fell out of the swing and cut my knee. My mother went into the drugstore across the street, and returned with some bandages. After she had finished cleaning and bandaging my knee, she brushed away my tears and showed me what else she had found in the drugstore: a pack of Black Jack Chewing Gum. I was only four or five at the time, but I remember popping that piece of Black Jack gum into my mouth. It was so delicious! I stopped crying and went back to playing.
Every year after that when we returned to the farm, I always bought a pack or two of Black Jack chewing gum in that same drugstore and enjoyed it back at the farm while fishing, walking in the woods, or reading scary stories at night by gaslight on the farmhouse front porch. Now, whenever I see Black Jack, I always buy a couple packs. It brings back fond memories of my great-aunt and uncle, and those family vacations to the farm. ~ Brian from Virginia