I heard there used to be a bubble gum factory in New Orleans. What happened to it?
New Orleans has a well-known history as a city of international trade, but few people may know of its relatively short-lived entry into the chewing gum business.
Just after the turn of the century, the American Chicle Company, which was founded in New Jersey in 1899, opened a factory on Decatur Street. At that time, the company had factories in many other major cities including Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Toronto and Portland, Oregon. New Orleans' large sugar trade and its proximity to South America made it a logical choice, since the company often went south of the border to harvest chicle for its chewing gum.
Chicle is a natural, chewable form of tree sap found in several species of trees in the Yucatan and Guatemala. Using the chicle for its gum, the company sold nearly a dozen different varieties, including Chiclets, Adams' Pepsin Tutti-Frutti and Adams' Black Jack (named and originally marketed by the founder of the company, Thomas Adams).
In 1910, the company built a three-story factory at Dante and Fig streets, just off Earhart Boulevard. By 1918, the American Chicle Company had decided to close the New Orleans factory, calling it "only one of a half-dozen which the company had been forced to abandon on account of climatic conditions unsuited to the manufacture of gum," according to The Times-Picayune. Our heat and humidity may have caused stickier conditions than the company had expected, making it less conducive to chewing gum production.
The building off Earhart was sold to the Marine Paint Company and later housed a box factory and auto parts warehouse. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. In 2008, it was purchased by Landis Construction Company, which renovated it and located its headquarters there.