Little Bits of History

Wrigley Company

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2011

Metal advertising sign. (Photo by Unaipon)

April 1, 1891: The William Wrigley Jr. Company is founded in Chicago, Illinois. The company originally sold soap and baking powder. The next year, William Wrigley began packaging chewing gum along with each can of baking powder purchased. Over time, the gum became more popular than the powder and the company switched focus. Juicy Fruit and Spearmint were the first two flavors of gum offered and the only flavors until the 20th century. When new, Juicy Fruit was packaged in a plain wrapper with “JUICY FRUIT” printed in red. The Spearmint flavor was marketed as the “classic” brand, even though Juicy Fruit was on the market first.

Chewing gum has been around since at least the Neolithic period. Some chewed gum with teeth prints dating back 5,000 years ago has been found. It was made of birch bark tar and believed to have had antiseptic properties. It was found in what is today Finland. The ancient Greeks also had chewing gum, theirs made from the mastic tree. Native Americans had gum made from the spruce tree. Modern chewing gum was developed in the 1860s when chicle was exported from Mexico. It was to be used as a substitute for rubber but was ineffective. Instead, it was turned into gum.

Today, gum is sold in a variety of ways. It can be sold in the form of gumballs, sticks, ribbons, or strings. It can be sold in combination with candy, as in Charms Blow Pops. There is medicated gum that can deliver the drug faster than if taken in pill form. There is also sugarless gum and bubblegum. This product was invented by Walter Diemer in 1928. He was an accountant working for Fleer Chewing Gum Company and made a gum specially designed to blow bubbles. It was originally marketed under the name Double Bubble.

The Wrigley Company has become a global concern selling to more than 180 countries. There are 14 factories located in countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. They employ 16,000 people and maintain headquarters in Chicago. They had $5.389 billion in revenue for 2007 [last year available] with over $600 million in profits. In 2004 they purchased Life Savers and Altoids from Kraft Foods. They became a subsidiary of Mars, Inc. in 2008.

“Flattery is like chewing gum. Enjoy it but don’t swallow it.” – Hank Ketcham

“I go from stool to stool in singles bars hoping to get lucky, but there’s never any gum under any of them.” – Emo Philips

“I had a stick of CareFree gum, but it didn’t work. I felt pretty good while I was blowing that bubble, but as soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.” – Mitch Hedberg

“Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight? / If your mother says don’t chew it, do you swallow it in spite? / Can you catch it on your tonsils, can you heave it left and right?” – sung by Lonnie Donegan in 1958

Also on this day:
Money, American style – In 1778, the $ was invented.
Hitler Jailed – In 1924, Hitler was sentenced to serve a jail term.

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