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Blackjack gum (1880-1970s)

In 1869, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was an exiled Mexican president and general that lived in New Jersey. He had brought a ton of Mexican chicle (a natural gum) with him; he was hoping he could sell enough to raise the funds needed to return home. He convinced Thomas Adams to buy it. Adams was hoping to use it to create rubber. He didn’t quite succeed but was intrigued since he knew Santa Anna (and ancient Mayans) loved to chew it.

He boiled a small batch of the chicle and created chewing gum. He sold it to a local Staten Island store and it sold! In 1871, he received a patent on his machine and began mass production. His first gum (“Snapping and Stretching”) was pure chicle. Adams began adding sarsaparilla as a flavoring. In 1884, he began adding licorice and called it Adams’ Black Jack. It was the first flavored gum in the U.S. and the first gum to be offered in stick form.

Sales slowed in the 70s, but returned to specialty candy shops in the 2000s.