The habit of chewing gum-like substances is believed to go back to prehistoric times. Archeologists have found tooth marks in chunks of tree resin among Mesolithic remains. Native Americans chewed spruce resin, a habit adopted by the first pioneers. Resin was later replaced by sweetened paraffin, but it was not until the 19th century that the Americans caught on to Mexico’s centuries-old use of the latex, called chicle, of the sapodilla tree.
The American Thomas Adams was trying to make a material for tires from chicle when he realized he had a substance ideal for chewing. His first sample sold out in less than a day. By 1871 he had received the first chewing gum machine patent and began mass producing Adams New York No. 1 chewing gum. Roughly 10 years later William White added peppermint flavoring. In the UK about 20 million people masticate their way through nearly 1 billion packs a year. Chewing gum became classed as litter in Britain and the country spends roughly £150 million (US$217 million) a year clearing it off the streets.