By Dorri Partain
For a fun recycling project that’s suitable for all ages, save your chewing gum wrappers.
While other colorful candy wrappers may also be suitable, the paper gum wrapper is most often used. By carefully folding the wrappers into pieces that link together, a chain of any length can be created, either to see just how long it continues, or used for various crafts.
Chewing gum first became popular following the Civil War and was often considered an aid to digestion. Thomas Adams (1818-1905), an American scientist and inventor, first encountered a rubbery tree gum called chicle while working in Mexico.
He first tried to use the chicle as an cheaper alternative to expensive rubber tires, but failing that, returned to the original known use, chewing for pleasure. To speed up production, he invented and patented the first gum-making machine in 1870, offering an unflavored gum called Adam’s New York Chewing Gum. Adams then developed the first flavored gum, Black Jack, a licorice-flavored gum in 1871. Clove, flavored with the clove spice, followed many years later, in 1914.
By 1978, with an ever increasing array of gum flavors to choose from, licorice and clove flavors were less appealing and discontinued by Warner-Lambert, which had acquired Adam’s American Chicle Company in 1962.
The flavors returned in 1985 in their nostalgic wrappers, but were only offered in batches before disappearing again.
Gerrit J. Verburg, a candy company in Fenton, Michigan, bought the rights and recipe from then-owner Cadbury Adams and began producing the gum 2019, with the same wrapper design used for decades.
A form of origami, two links can be made from one gum wrapper. Two five-stick packs will create a chain five inches long. Colors can be alternated if using more than one type of gum.
The world record for the longest gum wrapper chain is held by Gary M. Duschel of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Duschel began his gum wrapper chain in 1965 while a student in the ninth grade. In April of this year, his chain measured at 109,671 feet and he continues to add to it daily.