The Richland County – Shelby Chapter
Of The Ohio Genealogical Society
 

- - - INDUSTRIES - - -

THE SHELBY GUM COMPANY

 
 
The Shelby Gum Company - 15 Walnut Street, Shelby, Ohio

 
 


 
The Daily Globe, Shelby, Ohio – April 24, 1950
 
"Gum Industry Had Origin Here Over 34 Years Ago"
 
"The Shelby Gum Company, located on Walnut Street, had it's forerunner here in the Shelby Supply and Manufacturing Company which was incorporated in 1916 with a capital of $25,000. Mr. Purdue, of Cleveland, was the moving spirit in the original enterprise and became its general manager and treasurer. H. K. Beck, a Shelby man, was the company's first president. Roscoe Skiles became vice president and Howard Beck, secretary, by 1921.
 
The Supply and Manufacturing Company built a one-story building in 1916 and in 1917 started operations with three gum making machines and three employees to manufacture gum in ball form. In 1918 it was necessary to erect a two-story addition and in 1919 a four-story manufacturing plant was started and completed in May of 1920. Fifty men were employed by that date, and 69 coating machines or revolving pans were in use.
 
In June of 1924, the new Shelby Gum Company was organized and started operations the following year in the factory building formerly occupied by the Shelby Supply and Manufacturing Company. Organizing the second company were: J. J. Wilsdon, of Cleveland; A. J. Ellery and Harry Brubaker of Shelby and J. R. McIntyre of the Haserot Company. L. S. Wilsdon, son of the founder and first president, is now president; C. C. Hartzell, vice president and sales manager; Howard Beck, secretary and treasurer and office manager and T. J. Hanno, superintendent.
 
The originators of bubble gum, their blow gum was put on the market in 1925."
 
Courtesy of the Shelby Museum
 

 
Mansfield News-Journal, Wednesday, July 25, 1962
 
Shelby Plant Chief To Retire
Recalls How Bubble Gum Was Created
 
 
SHELBY - - - A Shelby plant superintendent is retiring August 1 after spending 52 years in the candy and gum business, including 38 years with the Shelby Gum Co., originators of bubble gum. He is T. J. (Jack) Hanno, of 158 West Main St., who began his career in the candy business in 1910. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Hanno spent three years in Cleveland, where he set up the candy department in the May Co. before coming to Shelby to help reorganize the old Shelby Supply and Manufacturing Co. The old firm manufactured a gum ball used in vending machines and also made candy. "I recall how we first got onto making bubble gum," Hanno said. "The late John Wilsdon who headed the reorganization of the Shelby firm, and I found a balloon tied to a pack of gum. We wondered why gum couldn't be made with Latex that could be blown into a bubble."
 
"After a number of failures with different types of base, we finally found a combination in Watertown, N. Y. that could make the necessary base we needed," Hanno stated. "Later we employed two brothers, Pat and John Latteri, who were working for that candy firm to come to Shelby and work in the newly created base department in the 1930s".
 
The Shelby firm was taken over by the Spangler Candy Co. of Bryan, Ohio, July 6 (1962). Rex Pendleton of Bryan was named as general manager. During World War II Pendleton served as a Navy pilot. Married and the father of six children, Pendleton is 41. He is a member of the First Methodist Church and the Moose Lodge. Hanno is married to the former Emma Anderson of Shelby. He is the father of two sons, Ralph of Galion and Harold, employed at the Shelby Salesbook Co.
 
"I remember when we wrapped many of our products by hand during the depression years of the 1930s," Hanno said. The first success we had with bubble gum was in what we called "jawbreakers." A large piece of gum, candy coated outside in different colors and made in the shape of a large ball. "The cost of making jawbreakers was too high to continue," Hanno said. "The panning cost too much. The balls were placed in the pans for coating and waxing." Kisses and sticks are made into bubble gum now. "The product still sells for a penny, still the lowest priced article in the grocery or super markets," Hanno said. "The size is not as big but it is still the biggest penny's worth in the store where penny articles are hard to find."
 
Expected to take Hanno's place on August 1 is Charles Leemaster of Shelby, another long time employee who has been in charge of the production of the bubble gum.
 
In addition to gum, the Spangler Candy Company manufactures Dum Dum lollipops, A-Z Candy Canes, Pecan Fudge Bars, Hickok Chips, and other items at the rate of 14 million pounds per year. It was started in 1906. At Shelby, the payroll is about 60 employees. At Bryan, it numbers more than 300 persons.
 
 

 
The Daily Globe, Shelby, Ohio – July 3, 1984
 
"Bubble Gum Was Shelby"
 
Hundreds of Shelby residents passed through the doors of the Shelby Gum Co. during it's 40 year history. "We had a big turnover," said Charles Leemaster of 13 W. Gaylord Ave. "Wages were the big thing. We were always competing with Copperweld which in the early 1920s paid 30 - 35 cents an hour, double the 15 - cent hourly wage of the gum company," Leemaster said. Leemaster went to work at Shelby Gum in 1924, at the age of 17, just as the company was re-organizing.
 
The four-story brick building on Walnut Street formerly was occupied by Shelby Supply and Manufacturing, which formed in 1916 and manufactured gum in a ball form. In 1925, the Shelby Gum Co., came out with a brand new product, bubble gum, a treat which soon grew in popularity. Manufactured under the name of Shelby's Blo Bubble, Leemaster recalls the company produced as much as eight tons of bubble gum daily during the peak years in the late 1920s and early '30s.
 
It was Leemaster's job to mix the powder-fine sugar, corn syrup and base (containing a synthetic latex), all products in the gum making process. The gum was formed into balls and placed in big copper coating pans where more sugar syrup was added and the balls revolved until dry. As many as 15 layers of sugar coating were added to the gum. "It was an all day process," Leemaster said. The final product traveled down long chutes to the first floor for packaging and shipping.
 
The Blo gum sold for a penny a piece in those days, Leemaster recalls. But, a penny was a lot of money for a youngster in the early years and Shelby children would often salvage what bubble gum they could when waste was burned behind the building. "We used to burn the sweepings in a big burner at the back of the factory along the railroad tracks," Leemaster said. "The kids would get in there and get what gum they could out of the fire." Some of the big-hearted employees would sometime throw a few pieces of the sugar-coated treats out of the factory windows to passing children below, according to Leemaster's wife Helen.
 
The Shelby Gum Co. first was formed by John Wilsdon of Cleveland. His son, L. S., took over the operation in the '40s. Wilsdon's widow, Mary, still lives in Shelby during the summer months, according to Leemaster. During its peak years, the company employed as many as 65 employees and they worked a normal nine-hour day, five-day week. Work increased to 10-12 hours during World War II. "We were one of the few still making bubble gum during the war," Leemaster said "We didn't make any war products."
 
Yearly health inspections by the state and federal health boards were always fairly routine, the former employee recalled. The strict guidelines governing food production were not yet a part of the nation's policies. And today a problem with product tampering was not even imagined then. "People just didn't seem to think that way," he said.
 
Leemaster worked his way up to foreman and was named plant manager after the Shelby Gum Co. was bought out in 1962 by Spangler Candy Co. of Bryan. Spangler moved the operation to Bryan in 1967 and phased out bubble gum production last year. Spangler Candy Co. today is well-known for its Dum Dum suckers and candy canes.
 

 

Warm humid days in the '30s, '40s and '50s were special for many people in Shelby, particularly those who lived near 15 Walnut Street. The aroma of cooking candy coatings wafted on the air during most working hours near the Shelby Gum Company but when warm temperatures allowed the upper windows of the four-story building to be thrown open, that sweet fragrance traveled the entire neighborhood. Warm school days in the Spring and Fall were brightened further for those Shelby students who (by necessity or planned detour) passed by the Gum Company and were lucky enough to find a bubble gum treat on the sidewalk or street. Workers would many times toss a few gum gems out the open windows where they knew the passing school children would surely find them. Many of those workers were themselves school children not many years ago and remembered their delight in finding a similar gum treat.
 
For those who frequented places like Scott's Specialty Shop (or later Hanrahan's Novelties Store) at 53 East Main St., or many other corner groceries that were scattered all around Shelby neighborhoods, there was a great selection of bubble gums produced by (our) Gum Company. You might buy five pieces of bubble gum, each individually wrapped in a paper that could provide you with a riddle or cartoon or joke to tell your friends. Five pieces of bubble gum for a nickel! Or if you liked (and could afford it), you might buy bubble gum in a flat pack that included a card with photos of Hollywood stars or perhaps photos of current airplane models, or Humpty-Dumpty Up-To-Date cards with pictures and a revised up-to-date version of a nursery rhyme. All these were manufactured and packaged right here in Shelby by those kind people who tossed gum out the windows at 5 Walnut street. Not only did you get the great bubble gum, but you could try to collect all the cards in each of these sets! People like you were chewing Shelby Bubble Gum and collecting these same cards all around the country and now over 80 years later, people (older now) are still trying to collect Shelby Bubble Gum cards ! Examples of some of the cards produced in the 1930s are shown below:
 

 
 
 
 
Examples of the Humpty-Dumpty Up-To-Date cards
- (courtesy of the Shelby Museum)
 

(For a larger view and more info - click above)
 
 

 
 
 
 
Examples of the Hollywood Picture Stars cards
(courtesy of the Shelby Museum)

 
 
(For a larger view and more info - click above)
 
 

 
 
Fighting Planes card series
 

 

 

 
(For a larger view and more info - click above)
(courtesy of the Shelby Museum)
 
 

 
 
The following cards appear through the courtsey of John Shupek at Skytamer.com
 
 
(For a larger view and more info - click above)
 
 
 

 
 
Shelby Gum Company Memorabilia
(courtesy of the Shelby Museum)
 
 
(For a larger view and more info - click above)
 
 

 
 
Just after New Year, 2014 we received a call from Tennessee from Mr. Larry Lumley who was seeking information on a Shelby Gum Company product. He said his father had served in the navy during World War II on a Navy battleship where he got the knickname "Hot Shot". This year sometime before Christmas Larry's wife gave him a surprise present that felt like an empty box. When he opened it, he found it was exactly that. After the surprise and teasing was done, Larry became intrigued about the origin of the box and decided to check it out. He indicated that his wife had found it when looking for antiques and collectables, and immediately knew it would be an ideal surprise present for Larry. Some time spent on the internet led to the Shelby Museum.
 
 
Click here for more Hot Shot info.
"Hot Shot" photos provided by Larry Lumley
 
We have no "Hot Shot" items and only a limited knowledge of when this product was manufactured. It was probably sold in the mid to late '30s and it is assumed that the candy coating included a cinnamon flavoring and a hot spice ingredient similar to the current "Fire Ball" candy coating. We are very interested in hearing from anyone who is familiar with this product. We thank Larry Lumley and his wife for this "find" and for sending us the photos.
 
 
 

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