Former McAllen gum factory to get Texas Historical marker
POSTED: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 8:24pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 8:39pm
McAllen, TEXAS (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — The Hidalgo County Historical Commission, McAllen Historic Preservation Council and the City of McAllen will host a dedication ceremony honoring the Paris Gum Factory with a Texas Historical Marker and a City Landmark Marker, Friday October 11, 2013, at 10 am.
The ceremony will take place at 609 Business Highway 83.
The story of the Paris Gum Factory starts with Andrew J. Paris (pictured left) who came to McAllen in the early 40’s from Detroit, Michigan. He opened Andrew J Paris Import Sales in a small office at 121 ½ S Main St in McAllen and began manufacturing chewing gum in Monterrey Mexico and importing it along with mint candy into the US.
One day, while walking down the street, Paris came across a group of boys fighting. Upon breaking up the fight, he was surprised to discover the fight was over a piece of bubble gum- a rare and expensive commodity at that time. Recognizing an opportunity, Paris came up with the idea to mass-produce and flood the market with bubble gum. His fluency in Spanish which had built relationships and gained trust with the Mexican people was the key to this maneuver.
As a result, he was able to obtain large quantities of latex- something none of the major US manufacturers were able to do back then. Within 48 hours Paris had convinced the factories to convert to bubble gum. He also had cornered the latex market in Mexico- the supply for the entire western hemisphere.
Paris then dumped 5000 tons of the Mexican bubble gum on the market and it was an enormous overnight success. Paris Bubble Gum sold for a penny a piece and quickly became a household name. Along with making bubble gum accessible to everyone, Paris launched one of the biggest trends in the business– the art of blowing bubbles. Paris even taught a young Natalie Wood how to blow bubbles in preparation for her role in “A Miracle on 34th Street.” Life Magazine deemed Paris as the Bubble Gum King in their February 3, 1947 issue and Universal Newsreel’s “Bubble Trouble” hit the theaters three weeks later. Paris made numerous worldwide radio appearances throughout 1947 and 1948 blowing his famous bubbles.
With all the success, Paris wanted a stateside factory. One day while scouting a location, Paris noticed construction started on a tract of land across from the railroad tracks. The intention of the proposed building was for a major automobile company but once Paris saw the slab being poured he bought the property on the spot. On Oct 1, 1947 the Paris Gum Corp. of America opened its doors at 609 W Highway in McAllen.
The building follows the Art Deco style of the era with its four corner-curved windows constructed out of glass blocks. The small tower on the building originally sported a neon lit boy and girl blowing a bubble on either side. The building also had large glass panels on both sides of the entrance which made the front area of the structure very open. Paris’ son, John A Paris, compiled the history of his father’s legacy in a documentary titled “Andy Paris: Bubble Gum King”. For more information please visit www.bubblegumking.com and www.facebook.com/bubblegumkingmovie.