Chewing gum is a sweetened, flavored confection composed primarily of latex, both natural and artificial. Organic latex, a milky white fluid produced by a variety of seed plants, is best known as the principle component of rubber. Used as a snack, gum has no nutritive value, and, when people have finished chewing, they generally throw it away rather than swallow it.
Throughout history, people in many regions have selected naturally chewy and aromatic substances as breath fresheners or thirst quenchers. The Greeks used mastic tree resin; the Italians, frankincense; the West Indians, aromatic twigs; the Arabs, beeswax. Tree resins appear to have been the most popular, and spruce sap had been a favored chewing substance for centuries in North America before New England colonists adopted it for their own enjoyment. Although spruce gum was available to anyone willing to go out into the woods and extract it from a tree, John Curtis and his son, John Bacon Curtis, thought they could package and market it. In the mid-1800s, they experimented with the first manufacture of chewing gum sticks. First they boiled the spruce gum and skimmed off impurities such as bark before adding sugar and other fillers. Then they rolled it, let it cool, and cut it into sticks which they dipped in cornstarch, wrapped in paper, and placed in small wooden boxes. The Curtis company thrived, and business grew still further when the younger Curtis developed a machine to mass produce gum and founded the first chewing gum factory.