Black Jack® gum is a type of licorice flavored gum which has a long and illustrious history in the United States. Many people view Black Jack® gum with nostalgia, and candy fiends have been known to go to great lengths to seek it out. Unfortunately for fans of this classic gum, production runs tend to be infrequent and limited, so if you happen to notice some in your travels, you should definitely pick it up.
The first patent for chewing gum in the United States dates to around the mid-1800s. In 1871, inventor Thomas Adams was introduced to chicle, a natural gum product from a Latin American evergreen tree. He invented a gum making machine and initially sold an unflavored product called Snapping and Stretching. In 1884, he had the bright idea of adding licorice to the gum, marketing it as Adams' Black Jack, and it became an instant success.
This gum has a unique place in American history for several reasons. It was the first flavored gum introduced to the American market, laying the groundwork for cinnamon, peppermint, and a range of other gum flavorings. It was also the first gum to be sold in individually wrapped sticks; prior to the introduction of Black Jack® gum, consumers ate gum in chunks or balls, and were sometimes required to cut it from bulk logs.
Until 1970, Black Jack® gum was manufactured on a regular basis, but slow sales led the manufacturer to reduce its rate of production. After this point, the product changed hands several times, ultimately ending up in the hands of Cadbury in 2003. Cadbury does manufacture the gum periodically, typically in small amounts, and it is often quickly snapped up when it reaches the market.
If you want to track down Black Jack® gum to try for yourself, a good place to look is nostalgic candy retailers. These companies buy up large lots of products like Black Jack® gum when they come onto the market and then resell, sometimes at a very reasonable markup. If you look for “nostalgic candy” with your favorite search engine, you should be able to find several such retailers. You may also be able to find it in a local candy store, especially if the store happens to be run by people with a fondness for nostalgic candy.
A tip to candy fans: Cadbury claims that the next run of Black Jack® gum is scheduled for fall 2008.