CHEWING GUM. The original "chewing gum" was spruce gum, the exudation of the cut branches of the spruce or fir tree. Later, pure white paraffin wax, variously flavored, took its place—but only in its turn to give way to the "chicle" now almost exclusively employed. Chicle is a gum which is obtained from a tropical tree botanically known as the achras sapota, a member of the family which gives the Sapodilla fruit (see SAPO DILLA), and variously called the Naseberry and Sapodilla, growing most freely in Mexico, Central America and parts of northern South America.
Though its employment in the manufacture of chewing gum is of comparatively recent date, chicle was used by the Indians prior to the days of Columbus as a means of quenching their thirst. It was first commercially imported as a substitute for rubber, but its peculiar suitability for chewing gum has resulted in the entire product being .consumed by that industry. In the year ending June 30, 1910, nearly five and one-half million pounds were brought into the United States.
The trees are "tapped" during the rainy season. The sap or juice as it exudes has the appearance of milk, gradually changing to. a yellow color and about the thick ness of treacle. The tree drains rapidly, the full supply of "milk" being generally obtained within a few hours, but an interval of several years usually elapses before it will yield a fresh supply. The milk differs from the juice obtained from the sugar maple, for example, in that it is not the life sap of the tree and the flow varies greatly, some trees which show full life yielding much less than apparently poorer speci mens. "Crude chicle" is obtained by simple boiling and evaporation of the milk
accompanied by frequent kneading, the product as pressed in rough molds being of a light gray color.
The bulk of the crude chicle manufactured is shipped in blocks to Canada, where it is ftirther evaporated and carefully refined prior to importation into the United States.
In the chewing gum factory, the refined chicle is chopped or ground fine, screened and boiled to the right consistence in steam-jacketed kettles. The flavoring and sugar are then added, and the whole is transferred to large centrifugal receivers in which it is whipped and kneaded into a dough. It goes next to the kneading tables where it is thoroughly "worked" with powdered sugar and then passed between rollers set with numerous small knives which roll it into sheets and cut it into marketable size. After a final drying, the pieces are ready for wrapping—generally performed by machinery, a single modern wrapping machine being capable of turning out an average of 20,000 packages a day.
It is estimated that chewing gum to a value of $40,000,000 was used in the United States during the year ending June 30, 1910, and present indications are that it will before long have attained almost equal popularity in Europe.
Some manufacturers of patent medicines are now successfully combining digestive and antiseptic ingredients with chewing gum.