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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/559

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DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE.

finer and more perfect conception of truth. It will clothe its utterances in an imagery as much more varied as the knowledge of to-day is fuller than that of yesterday. It will be artistic beyond the dreams of other days, and its art will be something more than that of mere intuition. It will glow with color, but no crudeness of taste will guide the artist's brush, and the intelligent, aesthetic sense of a broadly cultured people will find inspiration in it, as once heroes did in the songs of the bards of old.

L. W. Smith.
Tabor, Iowa.
 

 

ANTIQUITY OF THE CHEWING GUM HABIT.

In the letter of Columbus on the discovery of America, facsimile edition, 1892, of the four Latin editions belonging to the Lenox Library, the following occurs in the translation (page 11): "Finally, that I may compress in few words the brief account of our departure and quick return, and the gain, I promise this, that if I am supported by our most invincible sovereigns with a little of their help, as much gold can be supplied as they will need, indeed, as much of spices, of cotton, of chewing gum (which is only found in Chios), also as much of aloeswood, and as many slaves for the navy as their majesties will wish to demand."

The date of this letter is March 14, 1493,—over four hundred years ago. It will be seen by the above that the chewing gum habit is by no means a modern or recent one. and doubtless antedates Columbus' letter by many years.

The reference to Chios, an island in the Grecian Archipelago, is presumably for the purpose of indicating the character of the 'gum.' The Chios 'gum' of the ancients has been described as an earth of a compact character, probably argillaceous, and had the reputation of possessing medicinal qualities. Its consistency and appearance may have been such as to have led to its being popularly called 'gum.'

That the chewing of gum, or some other article or waxy substance suitable for chewing, was in vogue at the time, there can be no doubt, and that the discovery of such a substance would be regarded as an important acquisition is implied by its being specially mentioned and promised by Columbus.

Years ago, more than half a century, shoemakers' wax, so-called, Burgundy pitch and crude spruce-gum were chewed to a considerable extent, as the writer clearly remembers.

Betel chewing, the leaves and the nut mixed in certain proportions with lime, as practiced in Asiatic countries, naturally occurs to the mind in connection with the foregoing, as well as occasional instances of chewing slate pencils and lime mortar, an interesting ease of the latter having been brought to my notice several years since by a well-known physician of Newark, N. J. But these are rather exceptional and individual cases, therefore not to be regarded as general or popular habits. From the chewing of earthy substances to the eating of the same, would appear to be but a natural step. The latter habit, so far as facts are available, is of comparatively infrequent occurrence and restricted to a much smaller number of persons. Beds of white infusorial earth, resembling magnesia in appearance, known as Bergmehl, occur in Lapland and Finland. This is, or has been used in seasons of scarcity, mixed with flour made of some kind of grain or ground birch-bark, and clay-eating probably, to a greater or less extent, still continues to be a habit in North Carolina as in the past. The effect of this habit, as any intelligent person would suppose, is decidedly injurious to the individual that pursues it. In several cases that have come under my observation the results are exhibited in sallowness of complexion, lack-lustre eyes, distension of the abdomen caused by engorgement or clogging of the liver, and other intestinal derangement, listlessness and general debility.

Rob't E. C. Stearns.
Los Angeles, Cal.