Monday, June 18, 2012

The Chewing Gum Girl

LJ Vintage Ads
The girl doesn't necessarily have to be as beautiful as Helen of Troy but she must have winning lips. And that's true of any girl. Easy, too, if she chooses to chew WRIGLEY'S at least ten minutes a day. This is based on the old Beauty Secret that chewing gum from the Sapota tree keeps lips gloriously young and enchanting. WRIGLEY'S is from the Beauty tree.

Well, of course it is. But has anyone ever heard of this old Beauty Secret?

Inspired by this nutty 1920s ad, I had to know!

Good Housekeeping noted, in 1890, that "the chewing gum girl gives her molars plenty of wholesome and unwholesome exercise" and that it isn't that healthy, either, because it tends to stay in one location in your mouth. Nothing about lips.

A poet called A.R. Abel contributed some verses called "The Chewing Girl" to the Oberlin Review in 1889, including these immortal lines:

Chew! Chew! Chew!
And still we hear and quail!
Chew! Chew! Chew!
We wish your strength would fail;
At home, at chapel, abroad,
Abroad, at chapel, at home; -
You meet the girl, and the chewing-gum,
Wherever you chance to roam.

Paul Whiteman, looking very Oliver Hardyesque in 1926
I read some other late 19th century stuff that corroborated Abel's lament: chewing gum was very popular with girls, to the point that it quite annoyed people who were in the general vicinity. One Australian story published in 1889 has a character saying "Katherine, it would greatly oblige me if you would desist from the extremely unpleasant practice of chewing gum. It is not at all ladylike, and very exasperating."

In the 1920s musician Paul Whiteman - who had a hit song called "Hot Lips" and therefore possibly knows a thing or two about them -  was quoted as begging that jazz music not "set [a] lady's charming mouth moving mechanically to the slow conquest of a piece of chewing-gum."

I understand this. I like gum sometimes, but I tend to chew only when I'm by myself. I knew someone in high school who used to chew gum all through class and exams and it really was - um, distracting. Didn't make her lips any better, either. So I suspect that the Wrigley folks were making this one up. Ads that stretch the truth like a piece of chewed-up gum: shocking, I know!

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