Making Chewing Gum Pop

By the time of Thomas Adams’ death in 1905, other businesses attempted to capitalize on the chewing gum craze; however, the “Big Three” remained American Chicle, the Beech-Nut Chewing Gum Company, and Wrigley. The latter is perhaps the most recognizable name in chewing gum by contemporary readers—and for good reason. The ascendance of the Wrigley brand of gum perhaps owes everything to the rise of modern advertising; yet equally indisputable is Wrigley’s role in shaping modern methods of branding and promotion.


           Premium Offers from the Wrigley Red Book Catalogue, 1917. Hagley Museum and Library.

William Wrigley, Jr. founded The Wrigley Company as a soap business in Chicago circa 1891. He quickly sensed the potential opportunities in gum and purchased the Zeno Manufacturing Company in 1910 to develop his new product line. Wrigley produced some of the most recognizable gum brands on the market, including Juicy Fruit and Spearmint, along with Peppermint, Lemon Cream and Blood Orange.[1] He also developed incentive-based relationships with merchants and retailers by offering premiums and gifts with purchase of gum in bulk. With the order of 16 boxes of chewing gum (Juicy Fruit, Pepsin or assorted flavors) store owners could receive a free Mackintosh rain jacket, or a hanging lamp assortment. Other premium offers included an oak chair, a dining set, “fancy vases” and other mantel ornaments, and even an “Imported French Limoges Ware Dinner Set” when a client purchased 60 boxes of gum for $50.[2] Women were key players in these kinds of small stores, running the books while their husbands worked up at the front. These types of incentives likely reached them directly, and Wrigley tapped into the aspirations of upwardly mobile families who sought to outfit their homes in the trappings of refinement.

The Wrigley Company developed an entire material culture of salesmanship: store displays, attractive wrappers, and small prizes inside packages. Outside of the candy shop, Wrigley’s advertising campaigns left an indelible mark on the urban landscape. Wrigley gum became a ubiquitous presence on taxi-cabs, billboards and in print media.[3]

Wrigley Company billboards, 1900-1924; R.C. Maxwell Co. Records, 1904-1990s, and undated; Duke University Libraries Library.

The marketing strategies employed by Wrigley and his competitors launched the notion that not all chewing gum was equal. By 1935, Wrigley led the industry with 60% of production. This was directly attributed to how widespread and pervasive their advertisements were, setting the bar higher and higher for other businesses to meet. While Wrigley perhaps had the biggest and loudest ads, other gum companies found ways to promote their products to the public by creating slogans, mascots and catchy jingles heard on the new medium of radio. But not every company could afford the “prohibitive” cost of advertising, which led to the decline in the number of plants by 1929, clearing the way for the “Big Three” to dominate space at candy shop counters.

As the twentieth century progressed, Wrigley transformed the ways in which the public understood the built environment as platform for brand promotion. By making the appearance of gum an everyday occurrence, Wrigley’s strategy conditioned the public to accept chewing gum as a routine part of everyday life.


Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum Match Book. They were the first company to utilize matches in a National Advertising Campaign.

Back – Creating the Chewing Gum Habit                              Next – Ladies Who Chewed

[1] Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company., “Wrigley’s Red Book Catalogue,” 1917, Hagley Museum & Library.

[2] Wm. Wrigley Jr. & Co., “Premium Offers,” 1900, f Trade Cat .W9545 1900a, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE.

[3] Wrigley also curried consumer interest by transforming his advertisements into a form of entertainment. One notable instance was the construction of 117 linked billboards advertising Spearmint lining tracks of railroad between Atlantic City and Trenton. Redclift, Chewing Gum, 39.