Chewing the gum off spruce trees may sound kind of gross today, but it was very, very popular before the 1860s. When spruce trees get damaged they release sap to help cover the injury. Initially the the resin is soft and sticky, however, the resin you want to chew takes at least two years to harden. You take the resin right off the spruce tree and chew it, however, because it’s quite hard, you have to roll it around in your mouth for a bit to soften it up.
The little barrel in this picture was used to store pieces of the spruce gum resin. These types of barrel were made by Kings Co. lumbermen. This little barrel is about 5.5” high and a little over 3” wide. It is covered in a brown shellac finish and has 6 black wooden bands around it. The top is cut open halfway.
Once the introduction of commercial chewing gum came along in the mid-1860s, chewing spruce gum became just another piece of history. I’ve read some blogs from people who say once you become accustomed to this taste you never go back to commercial chewing gum. I’ve never tried it – if you have please leave a comment and tell us what your experience was like! (1968.013)