About Edwin Eugene Beeman, Doctor
Beeman’s Chewing Gum
Back in the 19th century, Americans learned that the sap of the Marmalade Plum tree could be chewed. This tree is a native of Central America and natives chewed gum made from this sap which is chicle and is the basis of chewing gum. The fruit of this tree, Achras sapota is grown in Florida today. The gum has a flavor that was not pleasing to American tastes so it was necessary to add flavoring material to make it palatable. Doctor E. E. Beeman was one who made chewing gum that tasted good.
In 1840 Edwin Eugene Beeman was born in LaGrange, Lorain County Ohio, the son of Dr. Julius Beeman. The Beeman forebearers came to Ohio from New York state. Edwin spent his boyhood in Lorain and Erie counties and attended Oberlin College for two years. At 18 he began to read medicine under the direction of his father in Newburg, a village southeast of Cleveland and now part of the larger city.
He attended the Cincinnati Medical College and was graduated in 1861.
In 1862 Edwin enlisted for three months with the Cleveland Grays, returning home at the end of his enlistment. In the same year he married Mary Orrilla Cobb, a daughter of Ahria Cobb who had lived in the brick house on Main Street, Birmingham, now Rt. 113, the present residence of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Moorehead. The next two years found the doctor in the drug business with his father, Dr. Julius Beeman. Then he came to Birmingham, practicing medicine there for 12 years, then for six years at Wakeman.
In 1953 Grace Goulder, a feature writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, did an interesting article on the doctor. Apparently he was more interested in medical research than in his patients, according to Mrs. Goulder’s article. This research was done in a small building that was later remodeled and enlarged, and is now the residence of Mrs. Clarence (Minnie) Parker on Market Street in Birmingham.
"Originally little more than a shed, remodeling has made it a nice home but the old name (Beeman’s Wormery) hangs about it. He was living in Birmingham in 1876. Witness to that fact is Mrs. Jessie Berkmeyer. He was our family doctor and he brought me into this world. I’m 77 (in 1953). He married while in Birmingham. His wife was the Cobb girl. The Cobbs lived in the brick house and had more money than most and later moved to Cleveland."
"I used to play with Doc’s sons, Harry and Lester", said Mrs. Edith Websdale, who lived in the house on South Street that was acquired by the Lorain County Metropolitan Park District and demolished. "Doc Beeman was a good doctor, my father always said except he’d rather fuss around with chemicals and medicines than attend sick folks."
Mrs. Goulder’s article continues: "There are stories about rattlesnakes and groundhogs that he dissected in the wormery. Often passerbys held their noses at the odors that came from it. He moved his family to Wakeman where he stayed six years before going to Cleveland."
"Beeman was ahead of his era. The son of a country doctor who had learned his profession by apprenticing himself to another physician, he enrolled in the Cincinnati Medical College. Becoming impressed with the problems of indigestion, he became a specialist in that field. He said half of the people who came to him complained of stomach trouble. In his experiments on animals, possibly some in the wormery, he discovered that pepsin from the stomachs of butchered hogs aided in digestion. He was able to make a powder containing this pepsin and prescribed it to his patients."
Leaving Wakeman for Cleveland, Dr. Beeman manufactured pepsin and organized the Beeman Chemical Company. He sold his pepsin in little blue bottles with a picture of a pig on the label. He was a customer of VanEpps and Company, a stationery supplier, where he met Nellie M. Horton, a clerk of the store. It is said the doctor complained about the lack of business to her.
She was chewing Yucatan gum which had been invented by a young popcorn and candy salesmen, William J. White. Miss Horton invited Dr. Beeman to try some Yucatan but he refused, saying he wouldn’t risk his stomach with the stuff. "As a matter of fact, I experimented a bit with making gum back in Birmingham and Wakeman where I used to live. But the stuff was like glue and smelled worse, tasted
awful too," he said.
Miss Horton suggested he add some pepsin to it. "You say it has a nice flavor. That way you could unload the pepsin too." Taking her suggestion, Dr. Beeman combined pepsin with the chicle and thus Beeman’s Pepsin Gum was born. The gum sold and the Beeman Chemical Company expanded with money furnished in part by a brother of Tom L. Johnson who founded the National Tube Company in Lorain.
Doctor Beeman became a wealthy man. He did not forget Miss Horton. She acquired a block of stock in the prosperous company and became independent in her own right. Dr. Beeman entered politics and served on the Cleveland Council as a Democrat. Later he became a Republican. He and William White sold their gums to the American Chicle Company of Chicago, a multi-million dollar company that is now part of Warner Lambert Company. The production of Beeman’s Pepsin Gum ceased in 1978. The doctor died in Cleveland, November 6, 1906. He was burried in Harvard Grove Cemetery, Lansing Avenue, Cleveland.
(Credit for much of this material is acknowledged to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The W. N. Gates Company, Dr. Beeman’s advertising agency. This agency was founded by William Nahum Gates of Elyria, Ohio in 1878.)
Transcribed by Lowell Dunlap