America’s First Chewing Gum Factory Was Right Here In Portland
Did you know the very first chewing gum factory was built in Portland? Back in the early 1850's businessman John Bacon Curtis saw a market for chewing gum and set up shop at 291 Fore Street, now the Hub Furniture building.
The gum was made by boiling resin then cutting it into strips that were coated in cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together. As it turned out, though, spruce resin wasn't ideal for producing gum because it didn’t taste great and became brittle when chewed. Curtis and others who’d jumped into the gum business after him would eventually switch to ingredients like paraffin wax.
The factory played a key roll in women's history in Maine because most of the workers were young women.