Gum Machine

View of an old gum machine made of metal and glass

NPS. Artifact: KLGO 55049

Gum Machine

This gum machine has traveled a long way to get here. The turn of the century saw a growing network of connections across the country that happily fed the funneling of goods that supplied the Klondike Gold Rush. So here we have a luxury consumer good made by a company in New Jersey, with a sales office in San Francisco, that finds a home in Alaska. The gum machine actually has its roots even farther away, in London, where the first vending machines were used to dispense postcards and then books. But when the technology came to the United States and was installed in the New York City subway, the first product sold was sticks of Tutti-Frutti gum. (It wasn’t until 1907 that gumballs, and subsequently gumball machines, were invented.) This led to a chain of patents for automatic machines, including ones for a peanut-vending machine and even a coin-controlled electric-shock machine. All this change was not greeted enthusiastically by all. The park came across a news piece in the British Medical Journal from 1897, which bemoaned the sight of so many young women partaking of this new fade, gum chewing, and warned of the dangers it posed for young children who swallowed their gum.
Photo of old gum machine with illustration to show how it works
Gum machines have changed a lot in the last century, both by design and popularity.
This artifact is part of Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum in Skagway, Alaska. It was donated to the National Park Service by the Rasmuson Foundation as part of the George & Edna Rapuzzi Collection.

Last updated: September 25, 2019

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Mailing Address:

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
P.O. Box 517

Skagway, AK 99840


907 983-9200

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