Gum chewers owe their treat to the Mexican general who wiped out Davy Crockett and his band at the Alamo. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, a deposed dictator living in exile on Staten Island, figured he could raise enough money for an army if the started an artificial-rubber industry based on chicle. In 1869, he gave New York inventor Thomas Adams Sr. a chicle sample and persuaded him to buy another ton for experiments. When Adams didn't produce anything, Santa Anna lost interest. Adams didn't. He eventually used the chicle to create a chewing gum that was better than the awful paraffin wax then available. The first batch of 200 unflavored gum balls sold out before noon the very first day -- to Jersey City schoolchildren, who no doubt spent the afternoon writing, "I will not chew gum in class."
Oct 1, 1985