McALLEN, TX -- It's not every day that bubblegum history is venerated. But on Oct. 11, the McAllen Texas Historic Preservation Council and the Hidalgo County Historical Commission formally unveiled the Texas Historical Commission plaque honoring Andrew "The Bubblegum King" Paris.
The founder of the Paris Gum Corp. was dubbed the Bubblegum King by LIFE magazine in 1947 after he cornered the Mexican latex market. This shrewd move, according to confectionary historians, allowed Paris to produce inexpensive gum that soon flooded the American marketplace. By some estimates, Paris shipped 5,000 tons of gum throughout the U.S. at a newly affordable price of a penny apiece.
Although originally manufacturing his gum in Mexico, he soon moved his operations to the U.S. in McAllen, TX. The art deco plant, located at 609 Business Hwy. 83, was designated a historic landmark last year by the Texas Historical Commission. Today it houses Xtreme Lazer.
Paris was born in 1919 and moved to Mexico City during World War II, after which he began exporting candy to his family's tobacco shop. As legend has it, he was inspired to get into the gum business after watching two youths fight over a piece of expensive gum. That incident, say historians, led him to move aggressively into latex and gum manufacturing. Opening a factory in McAllen in 1947, he supported the business and gum with a series of high-profile promotions.
Paris reportedly created the concept of blowing bubbles. He is credited with teaching a young Natalie Wood to blow bubbles for her role in the classic film "A Miracle on 34th Street." LIFE devoted numerous pages to Paris while a Universal Newsreel profiled him in a segment entitled "Bubble Trouble. " Crisscrossing the country to make personal appearances, Paris was a tireless promoter of bubblegum. It also didn't hurt that he briefly dated Marilyn Monroe.
Paris died in 1997, but his work is still remembered. A Facebook page details his life, while the 2011 documentary film, "Andy Paris: Bubblegum King" tells his personal and professional story.