Every so often, while trawling for things nostalgic on the Internet, one happens upon a website that defies explanation. The Virtual Museum of Israel Chewing Gum Wrappers is such a site.
Posted by world-class gum wrapper collector Roberto Back, the collection includes wrappers from the pre-State era — when chewing gum was brought to the region under the British — and is divided into categories according to manufacturer, historical era and subject.
An example of Mandate era gum wrappers made by Elite — still Israel’s main manufacturer of locally made gum.
Back has dedicated the site “to the Israeli gum wrappers, both as a nostalgic issue and also of interest for chewing gum wrappers collectors. Many of the gum wrappers displayed here are from my personal collection, others are collaboration from different people that kindly sent me the pictures and many others are taken from different websites.”
Early on, gum wrappers were considered an educational tool with series themes like “Animals”, “Cities of the World”, “Jewish Festivities”, “People of the World” and the like.
Gum wrappers were also used to present images of historical figures, political leaders, philanthropists, scientists, intellectuals and thinkers. Shown here (left to right): Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold, Zionist hero Joseph Trumpeldor, banker-philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild, US President John F. Kennedy, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and Laika, the Cosmo-canine and first animal to orbit the earth.
Later on, popular culture subjects like Sports Heroes and Cartoons & Comics were introduced. Even these tended to have an educational component, for example, learning about traffic signs with Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson.
Back also showcases now-defunct manufacturers like Barth, Ruth, Atlas, Gamma Chewing Gum, Lieber and others.
Perhaps the biggest cultural revolution in terms of Israeli attitudes towards gum is its repositioning over the past two decades as a dental health aid for adults, as well as kids, in the fight against plaque.
There’s much more of this novel collection to explore and enjoy. Back welcomes visitors to collaborate on his collection and invites them to send gum wrappers or scanned pictures to: [email protected].
He’s also posted links to interviews with Dr. Haim Grossman, a researcher of Israeli culture, who has published a book on the subject entitled “Mastik Shel Paam” (chewing gum of yesteryear). More information is available at Marom Israeli Culture and on their Facebook page.