December 28, 2009

Chewing Gum Patented – 1869

On this date in 1869, William Finley Semple received the first U.S. patent for chewing gum, which was a “combination of rubber with other articles.” He never commercially produced his gum, however.

Before the milestone:
The ancient Greeks chewed mastiche, resin from the mastic tree; the ancient Mayans chewed chicle, sap from the sapodilla tree; North American Indians chewed sap from spruce trees; and early European settlers in North America mixed beeswax in with the spruce sap for their chewing pleasure.

Spruce sap gum was sold commercially in 1948 by a man named John B. Curtis, and when he added paraffin gum to his line, the new product quickly became even more popular.
After the milestone:
Thomas Adams of Staten Inland, New York, opened the first chewing-gum factory in 1870 and received a patent for his gum-making machine in 1871. He began to manufacture and sell a licorice-flavored (chicle-based) gum called Blackjack; one of Adams's later flavors that became popular was called Tutti-Frutti.

Although most commercial gums from Adams on were based on chicle, nowadays many manufacturers have gone back to Semple's idea of rubber-based chewing gum.

Also on this date...

Dishwasher Patented – 1886

On this date in 1886, the first patent for a commercially successful dishwasher was issued to Josephine Garis Cochrane, who had worked for several years on an improvement to the mechanical dishwashers patented in 1850 and 1865.

e was a wealthy woman who had servants to wash her dishes for her, although she was apparently unhappy with how often her china became chipped in the process. Every history of the dishwasher that I consulted reported that the earlier mechanical dishwashers, both invented by men, did little to actually clean the dishes, and that Cochrane said, "If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I'll do it myself."

Cochrane unveiled her hand-powered mechanical dishwasher at the 1893 World's Fair, and she sold them to friends, hotels and resta
urants. Eventually Cochrane sold her company to the Hobart Corporation, which launched the brand name “Kitchen Aid.” Dishwashers didn't catch on with the general public until the 1950s and didn't become standard in American households until the 1970s.

In honor of the day, chew some gum and use your dishwasher, if you have one. However, do NOT wash your chewing gum in the dishwasher!

Did you know...?

For some people there is an urge to “decorate” things with chewed gum. Two places I have seen this “decoration” are at the observatory at Greenwich, England, and on the trail up the backside of Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia. At the Greenwich site, there is a tree in the garden that has been decorated by hundreds or even thousands of gobs of chewed gum of many different colors; the chewed gum circles the trunk and branches. Along the Stone Mountain trail, a huge boulder at one side of the trail and the cliff face on the opposite side have both been similarly decorated. (I don't know for sure if these “decorations" are still there, are more widespread, or have been cleaned off.)
In many other places, walls and utility poles have been gum-gobbed.
It's pretty gross, but sometimes lots and lots of old gum can take on a look of mosaic tiles and actually look cool. But don't—DON'T!—“dispose” of your gum on a tree, rock, wall, or pole that belongs to someone else or is public property. This practice is illegal in many places, and the fine for sticking gum somewhere can be quite high!
Pictured below is "Bubblegum Alley" in San Luis Obispo, California:

Chewing gum was banned in Singapore for twelve years, apparently mostly to avoid the mess of people sticking or dropping chewed gum rather than properly disposing of it. The ban was partially lifted in 2004, but gum can only be bought in pharmacies, and those who purchase it must register and show ID. Any pharmacist who relaxes these rules can be fined almost three thousand dollars!

It is said by some that Kool-Aid can clean dishwasher pipes. People are instructed to place the Kool-Aid in the detergent section of an otherwise empty dishwasher and run through a cycle. Hmmm....this doesn't seem too likely to me! We need Mythbusters to test this idea, so I won't have to!

A small drip from a faucet can waste up to 50 gallons of water each day. This is enough water to run a dishwasher at least twice on a full cycle.

There are many studies and “facts” about dishwashers and handwashing on the internet; the research and the websites compare the amount of water used in each, the level of cleanliness achieved by each, and the general environmental impact of each. In general, most of the evidence apparently shows that dishwashers, if used properly (not too much pre-rinsing, running full loads) is better for our limited water supply and the environment.

However, a lot of people have written to these websites, apparently quite upset, complaining that these findings are clearly not true. There is a lot more emotion on the subject of washing dishes than one can imagine!


  1. This isn't really about this particular post, but I wonder if there's a way for you to list your blog archives by title rather than date. I wanted to look back at something, but I can't remember what day it was posted.

  2. I added a "SEARCH" gadget. I am considering your idea of listing archives by title as well...

  3. Okay, I added anther index, which lists the Label words alphabetically. Thanks for the suggestion!