Tag Archives: Victorian addictions

The Deadly Chewing Gum: 1885

chewing gum seller 1894

The Deadly Chewing Gum.

Some people are continually advocating the cause of total abstinence and waging  war upon the hard cider when it stirreth itself aright in the Venetian glass But they do not seem know there is a vice equally as bad as that, which stings like a centipede and bites like a dose of Jamaica ginger, holding in its grip some of the fairest young ladies of our broad republic, and as I said before I deem it my duty to expose to the world some of the ravages made in our best families by that grim monster who enters into the very heart of our domestic fabric under the name of “Chewing Gum.”

I once knew a black-haired girl with great, liquid, laughing, pleading eyes that looked like a big white daisy with a black spot in the centre, and breath like a clover-fed Polled-Angus heifer. She could have more fun than anybody at a church social or roller skating-rink carnival, and her merry laugh filled the house with more mirth, soulful song and silver-plated melody than any amateur opera company that ever stopped at the entrance to the Grand Canyon. All the boys were “dead gone” on her, and she was mashed on several herself. But in an unguarded moment she commenced nibbling at and chewing her mother’s beeswax. This did not long satisfy her. The cruel thralldom had begun. Whenever she felt depressed, all broke up, or statu quo, as the case might be, there a nothing that would remove her ennui and fill the dark, fathomless aching void in her system, which was situated under the south end of her red corset, but the conscience-deadening, soul-destroying debaser of girlhood—beeswax. From this she gradually sunk lower and lower; became more debased and reckless, till she finally could not shake off the chains that bound her, and there was hardly an hour that she was not under the baleful influence of spruce gum or taffy on a broom-straw.

If she could not get spruce-gum to assuage her mad thirst she would chew on the rubber top of a lead pencil or strings out of an old elastic suspender.

She gradually pined away until she wouldn’t average over twelve ounces to the pound. She could no longer sit on one foot and be happy.

Life to her was filled with mahogany-colored gloom, lit up with only wax Christmas tree candles, and seemed but a rickety rusty waste of stub-toed grief. At last she took an overdose of gum overshoes and tar-roofing one day and her soul glided off for the land where hot-house plants never freeze.

If this little sketch will help any young girl in the community to shun chewing gum like she would the soft dude of the cultured East, and induce her to lead a better and nobler life in the future, it will have accomplished a mission for which the writer is truly thankful in advance.

Salt Lake [UT] Evening Democrat 23 May 1885: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A powerful and cautionary testimonial!  Not for nothing did mothers everywhere caution their children not to swallow gum. It was a mere step from chewing gum to chewing tobacco and from thence to the craving of strong drink.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.