Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Black Jack Gum

by Shanna Hatfield

Yesterday, Kristy McCaffrey had a fun post about Juicy Fruit Gum.

Today, I wanted to share a little about gum, too. Black Jack gum.

In 1869, exiled former Mexican president and general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (famous for the Alamo) took up residence in New Jersey. He brought Mexican chicle with him in hopes of selling it to raise funds for his political aspirations. 

Somehow, he persuaded Thomas Adams, a photographer and inventor, to purchase it. Adams intended to vulcanize (harden by treating with sulfur at a high temperature) it for use as a rubber substitute. 

The experiments failed, but Adams noticed Santa Anna liked to chew the chicle (as the Mayans were known to do). He boiled a small batch of chicle in his kitchen to create chewing gum then gave it to a local store to see if people would but it. Customers liked his gum and business took off.

Adams received the first patent on a gum-making machine in 1871 and began mass producing chicle-based gum. His first gum had no flavoring, but sold well enough to keep him experimenting. He began adding flavorings, beginning with sarsaparilla. 

In 1884, he added licorice flavoring and called his invention Adams' Black Jack, the first flavored gum in America. It was also the first gum offered in sticks. 

It sold well into the 1970s when production ceased, but was reintroduced in October 1986. Eventually, the gum became part of Mondelez International and can often be found today in candy stores and specialty shops. 

Although I never cared for the licorice flavor, my dad liked to chew Black Jack gum and used to tease my nieces and nephew, saying his teeth disappeared when he'd press the gum over a few to hide them. 

In my recently released sweet historical romance, the heroine uses black gum to hide her front teeth as part of a disguise. 

Here's a little excerpt from the story. 

Her team of horses might not ever forgive her for raiding their tails to construct a wig, but it couldn’t be helped. Cork and Galway were a fine pair of lads, even with their shortened tails. She’d frayed the hem on an old petticoat and let it hang long, almost dragging the ground, then donned a dress made out of an ugly calico she’d worn every day during the last months of her pregnancy when she was so swollen with child she could barely waddle. A piece of Adams’ Black Jack gum strategically placed over her two front teeth made it appear as if they were missing. A little smudge of soot beneath her eyes created the illusion of age and bags while a dusting of flour on her cheeks and nose dimmed her freckles. The finishing touch was to walk hunched over with a slight limp.

Mrs. Parrish was a homely, poor widow, albeit one with an adorable baby, but none of the men ever paid any mind to Keeva. At least they hadn’t until this morning when Seth picked up her daughter like he’d held a baby before. When she stepped into the kitchen to see him rocking Keeva from side to side, she’d nearly had heart palpitations. Uncertain of his intentions, or the kind of man he might be, one look in his eyes assured her he meant no harm.

From what she’d witnessed in her time at the mining camp, good, honest men didn’t last long. They either quit or ended up dead. Like Camden. Which was why she had to find out what was going on at the Crescent Creek Mine.

Read more about Hollin, Seth, and their adventures in Dumplings and Dynamite!

After spending her formative years on a farm in eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna loves to hear from readers. Follow her online at:
Find Shanna’s books at:


Alicia Haney said...

Hi, this is so very interesting, Thank you for sharing about this gum, I had never heard of it. I like gum, but I'm not a big fan of licorice either. Have a Great day!

Shanna Hatfield said...

Thanks for stopping in, Licha! They used to have some really interesting flavors back in the day.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Santa Anna ended up in New Jersey? And he brought gum? I'm stunned. I never knew any of this. I loved Black Jack gum when I was a kid and not just because of the flavor but because it felt kind of edgy. This was a fun follow up to the Juice Fruit post. Now I'm remembering the striped gum with the zebra logo. Thanks!

Julie Lence said...

Interesting piece of history. While I like red licorice, I'm not a fan of the black licorice. My father was, but he wasn't a gum chewer so this brand is new to me. Thanks Shanna!