Commercial chewing gum in the United States dates back to John Curtis in 1848 when he produced a commercial chewing gum from the resin of spruce trees. He called this early chewing gum State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. This was not a new concept since spruce tree sap and other saps in their natural state were chewed for thousands of years by native peoples around the world.
In the late 1860s and an American inventor named Thomas Adams Sr. of New York acquired a large amount of chicle from Mexico. Chicle is a milky latex material with a subtle flavor and high sugar content that is harvested from the Sapodilla Tree.
In 1869, after lengthy experimentation searching for alternative commercial uses for the latex substance, Adams stumbled upon a new use. By boiling the chicle, adding a flavoring and then hand rolling it into small samples, he produced a gum that could be chewed.
This new product was marketed as Adams New York Chewing Gum. In 1871 Adam’s patented a machine for making chewing gum and new flavors and brands of gum followed such as the licorice flavored gum named Black Jack.
In 1879, Dr. Edward Beeman from Ohio, who had been marketing powdered pepsin in bottles to relieve indigestion, struck upon the idea of adding pepsin to chicle to create a chewing gum that aided digestion. The result was Beeman’s Chewing Gum. Pepsin is a gastric enzyme found in the stomach that aids in digesting proteins such as those in meat, eggs, seeds or dairy products.
The decade of the 1880s saw a proliferation of new chewing gum manufacturers and new brands appear on the scene. In 1880, William White struck upon the idea to add sugar and corn syrup to chicle to make the flavor last longer. He created a peppermint flavored gum named Yucatan. At the same year John Colgan of Louisville produced Colgan’s Gum. It came in flavors such as Taffy Tolu, Peppermint, Pepsin, Licorice, Orange and Cinnamon. Following the popularity of Colgan’s Gum six years later in 1886, another Louisville company headed by Jonathan Primley produced Kis-Me Chewing Gum. Kis-Me was offered in flavors such as Wintergreen, Peppermint Tolu, Orange and Pepsin. In 1893 William Wrigley introduced the still popular Wrigley’s Spearmint and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum.
By the beginning of the 20th century, chewing gum was becoming very popular confection and nearly every general store, candy store or drug store offered a variety of chewing gums and flavors. It was into this enterprising mix of competing brands that Coca-Cola Chewing Gum first appeared in 1903.
c.1904 Coca-Cola Gum 5 stick package
1904 Chewing Gum trade card
c.1903 Coca-Cola Gum bookmarks
c.1903 Coca-Cola Gum die-cut
Coca-Cola Chewing Gum Jar with thumbprint lid
Coca-Cola Chewing Gum Jar with scalloped embossed lid
Having been relieved of the burden to pay back the sugar debt by bankruptcy, the new Franklin-Caro Gum Company seemed to be on good footing, even going as far as calling themselves the “Largest chewing gum manufacturer in the south” in their letterhead. They continued marketing the same products, with the addition of a new chewing gum named Velvet in 1923.
Later that same year, they also entered into the roasted peanut segment of the market with a brand named Ole Virginia Smithfield or simply Smithfield. By 1924 the Franklin-Caro Gum Company was weathering declining sales and subsequently sold their assets to Julius Wyman of Baltimore, Maryland for $20,000 - only one-half the $40,000 price that the company had sold for three years earlier. Wyman, acting surreptitiously on behalf of the Coca-Cola Company purchased Franklin-Caro to keep anyone else from buying the gum company and using the Coca-Cola trademark.
On October 22, 1925, Mr. Wyman transferred all interests in Franklin-Caro to the Smithfield Products Company. Turner Jones, a vice president with The Coca-Cola Company, became president of Smithfield. The Coca-Cola trademark was again safely in the hands of The Coca-Cola Company. From 1925 on there is no evidence that Coca-Cola Gum was ever commercially sold again. A number of printed labels from 1941 and a proposed marketing study from the same time period provide some evidence that The Coca-Cola Company considered marketing gum again in 1941. But with the onset of World War II, the effort was apparently abandoned.
Note: A complete selection of Coca-Cola Chewing Gum items and their values are available to subscribers in the Price Guide section of this website
c.1921-1924 Spearmint Flavor Wrapper
c.1923 Velvet Gum Wrapper
Coca-Cola Pepsin Gum Jar with paper label and embossed lid
c.1911-1913 Wintergreen Pepsin Wrapper
c.1912 Coca-Cola Pepsin Gum Wrapper
c.1911-1913 Spearmint Pepsin Wrapper
c.1913-1916 Spearmint Pepsin Wrapper
c.1913-1916 Spearmint Flavor Wrapper
c.1915-1920 Peppermint Pepsin Wrapper
c.1912-1916 Coca-Cola Gum Fan showing the home of Coca-Cola Gum in Richmond Virginia
c.1916 Twenty Package Box
c.1911-19120 Shipping box for 100 5-stick packages
c.1914-1916 Coca-Cola Cardboard Die-cut
Coca-Cola Chewing Gum Jar with scalloped embossed lid and Pepsin Gum paper label
Coca-Cola Pepsin Gum Jar with embossed scalloped lid