Sticky Business

‘Kaugummi – Ich muss den Jonny küssen’ by Frank Fox & Erich Meder, published by Ludwig Doblinger (Leipzig, 1945). Cover designed by Anton Stursa (AS-monogram).

Before WWII chewing gum wasn’t common in Europe. The liberation changed that: GIs came with their jeeps and Coca-Cola, offering cigarettes and gum, and thus introduced us to the American way of life. Chewing gum was here to stay.

Although archaeologists have found evidence that the ancient Greeks, the Mayans, and the Aztecs all chewed sticky substances, the mass production of chewing gum happened but around the middle of the 19th century. In 1848, the Curtis family of Maine —inspired by the spruce resin gums enjoyed by Native Americans and by early American pioneers— started to sell the world’s first commercial chewing gum, the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. They later changed the recipe to a flavoured paraffin wax gum. In 1852 the family founded the Curtis & Son Company, the nation’s first chewing gum factory with 200 employees. The gum became a success, however, the family never patented any recipe…

Improved Chewing-Gum‘, Letters patent. source: United States Patent and Trademark Office

The first patent for chewing gum was granted to a dentist: William Semple of Mount Vernon in 1869. But instead of using resin or paraffin his gum was a mixture of rubber, chalk, powdered liquorice and charcoal, yuck! It was supposed to clean the teeth and strengthen the chewer’s jaw. William Semple did not market his invention very well though, and this left the door open for other players

‘She Chews Gum’ by T. J. Briner, published by Briner (Reading PA – 1898). Courtesy The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.

In the late 1850s the New Yorker Thomas Adams, a photographer and inventor, met General Santa Anna, the former Mexican president of the-Alamo-massacre fame, who lived in exile in Staten Island. Santa Anna had brought with him a shipment of chicle. Chicle is a natural gum from the sapadillo tree native to Middle America and the Caribbean.

This unlikely business duo, Thomas Adams and General Santa Anna, at first weren’t focused on gum. They intended to sell the chicle to rubber manufacturers as a cheap substitute for making carriage tires. This getting-rich-quickly scheme never took off because all their vulcanising experiments failed, and Santa Anna left the partnership. Adams though stuck with the chicle and it would make him very rich indeed. Noticing chicle’s resilience and elasticity he discovered the method to turn it into flavourless chewing gum. In 1871 he patented this process and christened the product Adam’s New York Chewing Gum, Snapping and Stretching.

A few years later he flavoured the chicle with liquorice and sold the gooey concoction as Black Jack gum. It was the first gum to be offered in sticks, and it quickly became the public’s favourite.  In 1888 he established a large factory and built the first vending machine in the US, selling tutti-frutti flavoured gum on New York subway platforms.

In 1899 Thomas Adams became the first chairman of the American Chicle Company, which brings us to the why of this post. I found an old album with collectable cards in the attic. This album was published as a promotion during the Twenties by a Belgian agent of the American Chicle Company. Ever curious I decided to explore the matter…

Collectible Cards Album, published by the Belgian representative of the American Chicle Company, Alb. Vandenbroeck (Visscherij-Pêcherie 154, Gent-Gand). source: Images Musicales Stories

The American Chicle Company was an amalgamation of Adams’ and other chewing gum giants. One of them was a Cleveland company, Beeman Chemical, established by pepsin manufacturer Dr. Edwin Beeman in 1887. He was a physician who discovered that pepsin, an extract from the stomach of freshly butchered hogs, provided relief from indigestion. Pepsin is an enzyme found naturally in the stomach that breaks down proteins. At first Beeman attempted to sell powdered pepsin in a bottle, but that failed. He then started to manufacture pepsin-flavoured chewing gum. It became a huge success, but only after he changed the picture of a pig on the wrapper by his own bearded face.

In Everybody’s Song, Susie chews some pepsin gum in order not to ‘be woozy‘.

‘Don’t be woozy’ by Chas B. Lawler & Edgar Selden, published by Howley Haviland C° (New York, 1897) and illustrated by Geo. Hart. Courtesy The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.

But it wasn’t until a travelling salesman, named William Wrigley junior, got into the business, that chewing gum became a national pastime. He was a genius when it came to marketing. He started as a soap salesman for his father’s company. In 1891 he offered baking powder as a premium with each box of soap. In 1892 he started selling baking powder as a sideline, this time offering chewing gum as a premium. And again the premium proved more popular than the base product. He dropped both soap and baking powder, and concentrated on manufacturing and selling chewing gum.

‘Oh You Spearmint Kiddo With the Wrigley Eyes’ by Jean Schwartz & William Jerome and published by Jerome H. Remick & Co. (New York, 1910). Courtesy The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music, The Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.

In 1893 Wrigley started selling two of the most popular gums in history Juicy Fruit and Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum, and it made his fortune. In the song Oh You Spearmint Kiddo With the Wrigley Eyes, the names of the three gum giants, Adams, Beeman and Wrigley are united in the lyrics

Chiclets‘ by Joseph Fowle, published by Henry Krey (Boston, 1906) and illustrated by Fisher. Source:

Chiclets was an innovation of chewing gum, with a hard sugar coating offered in several flavours and colours. Various people have been credited with inventing Chiclets, and as the above sheet music illustrates, they became popular around 1906.

‘Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor’ by Breuer, Rose & Bloom. Published by J. Albert & Son (Sydney, 1924). Source:

Chu-Chu, a 7-minutes documentary film from around 1920, shows us the production process from chicle to chewing gum. It tells us that every American soldier in World War I received regular rations of gum while they were overseas. During World War II Wrigley supported US troops by taking Spearmint, Doublemint and Juicy Fruit off the civilian market, and dedicating the entire output of these brands to the US Armed Forces. This brings us back to the start of this post, the WWII liberation when the Europeans learned to appreciate chewing gum.

‘Got any Gum Chum?’ by Evans, Butler & de Bear, published by Sam Fox (New York, 1945). Source:

Browse for Gondola Prows

‘Belle Italie’ by Ludo Langlois and L. Frings, published by L’Art Belge (Bruxelles, 1928) and illustrated by Peter De Greef.

Without the post from Olivier Castel we would never have paid attention to the shape of the gondola prow. Browsing our collection for gondolas —while keeping a sharp eye out for the fero da provathe image created by Peter De Greef for ‘Belle Italiecaught our attention. A small covered cabin, the felze, offers privacy to a smooching couple. Although stylised, the representation of the iron bow is like it should be. De Greef clearly passes the bow test.

‘A kiss in the dark’ by Victor Herbert published by Salabert (Paris, 1922) and illustrated by Roger De Valerio.

From the creative energy of another giant of illustration, Roger de Valerio, emerged a similar powerful image of luxurious intimacy under a cloak of Venetian darkness. De Valerio probably didn’t care about the exact morphology of the iron bow: three teeth are missing.

In my Gondola‘ by Harry Warren & Dud Green. Left: published by Shapiro, Bernstein, & Co. (New York, 1926). Right: published by Salabert (Paris, 1927) and illustrated by de Valerio.

For the song ‘In my Gondola’ the original American cover shows a comic-like and anecdotal scene in a stereotypical Venice. In de Valerio’s modernistic version on the other hand the calm composition and the rhythm of the repetitive boats make a check of their mandatory curves and number of teeth irrelevant.

Photographs of ‘ferri di prova’ with four and five teeth. Ca 1900. Source: Wikipedia.

Besides, photographs from around 1900 show us gondolas with four or five teeth, so we can’t really blame de Valerio for not drawing the usual six.

‘Scheint der mond auf Venedig’ by Max Geiger, published by Wiener Bohème – Verlag (Wien, 1930) and Illustrated by Otto Dely.

Venezia, Venise, Venedig, where the full moon ever watches courtship. Otto Dely, another colossus in illustration land, depicts this romantic idyll for ‘Scheint der Mond auf Venedig‘…, with an almost perfect bow!

Some illustrators though were wide of the mark when trying to render a Venetian gondola. Next follows our short compilation of these faux pas.

Olivier Castel rightly insisted on the distortion of the bows drawn by Leon Pousthomis. We found another example in our collection, where the stern of the gondola much resembles the Loch Ness Monster emerging from the Venetian laguna.

Sobre las olas‘ by Juventino Rosas, published by Galeries Parisiennes de Musique (Paris, s.d.). Cover illustration by Leon Pousthomis.

One should think Italians did know how to draw a gondola, or didn’t they? Oops, the fero on the prow is twisted inwards!

‘Notturnino Veneziano’ by G. Lagorio, published by Fratelli Franchi (Rome, 1927) and illustrated by Monni (illegible).

The unknown Spanish illustrator of ‘Morir de Amor‘ moved the ornamental fero from the bow to the stern of the boat, added a practical hole in it, and drew only two teeth. A fiasco, though good points for colourfulness and romance.

‘Morir de Amor’ by Ch. Schumann, published by Ch. Schumann (1920).

La Barcarolle‘ scores okay for the full moon, but stern and bow of the gondola are the same: zero points.

‘La Barcarolle’ by Emile Waldteufel, published by Hopwood & Crew (London, s.d.).

And if you can’t make head nor tail of the Venetian gondola, then simply drop the prova. No need for realism to draw a striking image, isn’t it Paul Telemann?

Left: ‘Gondolieren’ by Jose Armandola, published by Edition Accord (Berlin, 1922). Right: ‘Barbitonia’ by Max Rhode, published by Otto Wrede (Berlin,1920) both illustrated by Paul Telemann.

At last, a dishonourable mention goes to illustrator Capitan for his drawing of a pitiful gondola bow for Je connais ton pays. The full moon is not at the romantic rendezvous, but we imagine the ultimate Venetian stereotype of the boy passionately singing O sole mio, as it is often offered to tourists enjoying a gondola ride in Venice though it is a Neapolitan song. In the eighties tourist officials even ordered gondoliers to stop crooning O sole mio because it is not Venetian. Naples reacted by sending a group of strolling musicians to Venice to make sure tourists had their fair share of Neapolitan melodies.

Illustrated cover of the sheet music 'Je connais ton pays'
Je connais ton pays‘, a barcarolle by Albert Petit, Villemer & Delormel, published by Nouveau Répertoire des Concerts de Paris (s.d.) and illustrated by O. Capitan.

It’s now or never, thinks The King.

Il Fero da Prova, Symbol of Venice

Carnaval vénitien’ by Jules Burgmein, published by G. Ricordi & Cie (Milan, 1897). Cover chromolithographed by Giovanni Maria Mataloni.

Olivier Castel is one of our long-time readers. He teaches medicine at the university of Poitiers (France) and has been for many years a passionate collector of books and sheet music about Venice. It pleases us very much to publish his interesting findings on the iconography of gondolas. We hope that our translation does justice to Dr Castel’s fine observations. Happy reading!

The image of Venice is closely associated with its gondolas, slowly and gracefully gliding through the shallow, narrow canals of the lagoon. With their elegant, easily recognisable profile and black colour they have become a key symbol of the city. It is therefore not surprising that they have been a source of inspiration for many artists to illustrate sheet music depicting Venice. The city’s captivating charm has spawned a remarkable number of at least 350 scores with a French title or published in Paris a third of them illustrated with a gondola.

Fero da prova‘ Venice ca. 1700. Source: The Met, New York

Very early in its history, the bow of the gondola was adorned with a characteristic fero da prova. This iron prow head forms a comb with six teeth rising forward. It was originally used to counterbalance the weight of the gondolier. During the XVIIth century, each element acquired a precise meaning: the curvature represents the Grand Canal, the 6 parallel horizontal teeth at the front represent the 6 sestieri or districts of Venice and the only tooth opposite the upper tooth, represents the island of Giudecca. Finally, the empty space formed by the converging of the upper curved figure (called the Doge’s hat) towards the first tooth represents the Rialto Bridge.

French sheet music seldom gives an accurate representation of the gondola’s bow and iron. The Italians knew better of course, as proven by the opening image of ‘Carnaval vénitien‘ published by Ricordi, and richly illustrated by the Italian artist Giovanni Maria Mataloni (1889-1944). Mataloni is best known as a poster artist, and one of the precursors of the Stile Liberty, the Italian variant of Art Nouveau.

Le doux air de Veniseby Auguste Panseron, published by J. Meissonnier (Paris, 1829) and illustrated by Marie-Alexandre Alophe.

Marie-Alexandre Alophe (1812-1883), aka Adolphe Menut, is a painter and a lithographer. His work is characterised by a gentle sensitivity. Although also a photographer, he does not care about an accurate depiction, only the general appearance matters for him in order to evoke Venice. Let’s look at his 1829 drawing for Le Doux Air de Venise, a typical illustration for early 19th century scores. The prow iron is absent, its shape is ‘integrated’ in the wood of the gondola, the proportions are wrong, the front teeth are too thick and there are only three of them with no rear one. The result is a heavy, coarse bow.

La plainte du Gondolier’ by Gaston Salvayre, published by Choudens Père Fils (Paris, 1878) and illustrated by Gustave Fraipont.

The same applies to the cover illustration of ‘La plainte du Gondolier‘ by Gustave Fraipont half a century later. Fraipont (1843-1923), a French illustrator and poster artist of Belgian origin, here at the beginning of his career, gives us an airy stereotypical vision of Venice and its Grand Canal but with a rather unrefined gondola.

La célèbre Furlana vénitienne’ by Saratosga, published by Victoria (Paris, 1914) and illustrated by Paul Dubois.

During the 1914 Furlana dance craze Paul Dubois (1886-1949) illustrated two covers of La Célèbre Furlana Venitienne. The illustrator, identified by the monogram PD, creates one of the most curious representations of the Venetian gondola, with an unrealistic prow-head where the artist didn’t respect the Grand-Canal curvature, nor the number of teeth both at the front and at the rear. He even placed the gondolier opposite his usual place. Besides, knowing that the gondola has an asymmetrical shape, it would be impossible to move it through the water.

Left: ‘Barcarolle’ by Gaston Aubert, published by himself (Paris, 1908). Right: ‘La Giocosa Furlana’ by Lucien Durand, published by C. Dupuis (Paris, 1914). Both covers illustrated by Léon Pousthomis.

Leon Pousthomis (1881-1916) created many sheet music covers during his short life (he died in the Battle of Verdun at the age of 35). The 12 illustrated scores depicting Venice are evidence of his prolificacy. What characterises his vision of Venice perhaps the most is the distortion of the bow of the gondolas which he stretches to the extreme.

Clockwise; ‘Venise la jolie’ byJean Daris , ‘A kiss in the dark’ by Victor Herbert, ‘Lido Lady’ by Rodgers & Hart, ‘Venise adieu!’ by Ackermans & Geuskens and ‘Dans ma gondole’ by Harry Warren. Published by Salabert (Paris, 1922- 1928) and illustrated by de Valerio. The cover of Lido Lady is attributed to de Valerio.

Roger de Valério (1886-1951) created his first cover for the publisher Salabert in 1917, for whom he allegedly produced more than 2000. In 1926 Emile Chéronnet wrote: “I had this collection in my hands. This is a set of such a baffling variety that you can hardly believe it is not made by an entire studio. However Valério works alone indeed, and for these musical illustrations he has an imagination that is nearly miraculous” (L’Art Vivant, October 1926). It is therefore not surprising to find no less than 11 of his covers depicting Venice, including 5 with a gondola.

‘Sérénade à Marysa’ by Pandera, published by Editions Ricordi (Paris, 1935). ‘Lido cha cha’ by Roger Lécussant, published by Publications Musicales Jean Merlin (Paris, 1961). Both illustrated by Würth.

But it is Würth who illustrated the most scores with Venice on the cover: 16 between 1920 and 1961. He gave the gondolas a simple shape with an elongated, stylised bow and a marked Rialto Bridge. He purified his design over the years as we can see on these two sheet music covers made 25 years apart. Würth was an ubiquitous illustrator in French music publishing in the mid-twentieth century. He has worked for a large number of publishing houses (the 16 recorded scores were published by 15 different publishing houses). Despite a plethora of work, nothing is known about his life, which is rather surprising but not unusual in the world of music publishing.

Left: ‘Venise’ by Hubert Giraud, 1957. Right: ‘Chanson de Venise’ by Nicole Louvier, 1961. Both published by Les Nouvelles Editions Méridian (Paris) and illustrated by Raymond Erny.

To conclude this post on the ornamental prow iron we emphasise its importance as an icon for Venice, a simplified version of it being enough to evoke the city. For the 1957 song ‘Venise‘ Raymond Erny replaced a bar of the V by the highly stylised prow of a gondola. He also uses a Palina, another symbol of the city. For the 1961 song Chanson de Venise, he simplifies the prow even more by merely adding three horizontal crossbars to the front of the V. Erny, a contemporary of Würth, also remains to this day almost unknown, despite an equally significant production. Fortunately, we still have their illustrations as reminders of their work.

Olivier Castel

F. Mendelssohn: Venetianisches Gondellied Op. 30 n.6 – played by Roberto Giordano

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