The name chicle comes from the latex of a tropical evergreen tree used as the chief ingredient in making chewing gum.
Thomas Adams received a patent for a chewing gum machine in 1871 and started selling gum in Manhattan drug stores for one cent. His company and others were amalgamated into the American Chicle Co. in 1899. In 1910, the firm bought the company that was making Chiclets gum, and in 1916, the one that was making Dentyne.
Four years later, American Chicle built a factory at 30-30 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City. At the height of the Depression, the company listed its capital at $5 million, not bad for a product that sold for a penny.
In 1962, American Chicle introduced Trident gum, and Warner-Lambert Pharmaceuticals, a drug company based in Morris Plains, NJ, purchased the business. The firm employed entry-level and semi-skilled immigrants from Queens.
But in 1976 an explosion took place that mortally wounded at least one employee and injured 55. Five years later, when major lawsuits resulting from the fire were making their way through court, the LIC factory closed its doors, laying off 1,600 employees. American Chicle factories in Toronto and Mexico City picked up the slack.
With the gum maker gone, the building became home to more than 30 different small businesses. Now it houses the city Department of Design and Construction. After going through a succession of owners, the gum business is now part of Kraft Inc.