Chew On This

Adams' Black Jack Chewing Gum advertisement

Thomas Adams (1818-1905) fancied himself quite an inventor. But things were not going well for him. Try as he might, he could not turn chicle into rubber products. As his experiments failed and his frustration grew, he popped a piece of chicle into his mouth. And a new industry, chewing gum, was thereby born. Adams Chewing Gum swept the nation. Its brand names, “Black Jack” (introduced in 1884) and Chiclets (1899) became household names. In 1888, Adams installed the first Tutti Fruitti gum machines along New York City’s elevated train lines; put a penny in the machine, turn, and get a piece of gum. They were a sensation for years on the elevated, then later on the subways.

At right is an advertisement for Adams’ Black Jack Chewing Gum. I recently purchased this ad for The Green-Wood Historic Fund Collections. It is quite a wonderful graphic, but what really struck me is the text on the back of it. The top half is a testimonial from Professor Robert Ogden Doremus (1824-1906). Doremus was a scientist, professor, and inventor. Chemistry was his area of expertise. He invented a superior gunpowder, pioneered the use of chlorine as a disinfectant, and created toxicology as a forensic tool. But here he assumes the role of the scientist/endorser, putting his prestige on the line to state that Adams Chewing Gum is “pure, and free from any injurious substances.” Further, chewing gum “excites an abundant flow of the saliva,” aids digestion, and relieves dyspepsia. He concludes that chewing gum “is not only harmless, but beneficial.” Quite an endorsement!

Adams is interred at Green-Wood in section 139, lot 29432. Doremus lies in section 36, lot 13130, overlooking Sylvan Water.

Professor Robert Ogden Doremus
Doremus endorsement

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