chewing gum, confection consisting usually of chicle, flavorings, and corn syrup and sugar (or artificial sweeteners). Prehistoric people are believed to have chewed resins. Spruce resin was chewed as a thirst quencher by Native Americans, from whom pioneers adopted the custom. Refined paraffin was later used and then chicle, which was probably first imported into the United States through Mexico. A chicle gum was patented in 1869 by William and Semple. In the present-day manufacture of chewing gum blocks of chicle are ground, melted, and cleared in a whirling vat, and then the flavorings (e.g., fruits, licorice, mints) and other ingredients are added. The gum is rolled through sheeting machinery and chopped into sticks or into candy-coated pellets. Insoluble plastics may be mixed with or substituted for the chicle. The United States is the major producer, exporter, and consumer, of chewing gum.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.