Excerpt taken from “History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922,” Volume 4
The cross currents of life very often carry a man far from his life’s work as he had planned it. No better illustration of this fact could be chosen than the career of the late Asa M. Fitch of Indianapolis. He began his business life as a general merchant in a small town and would undoubtedly have continued as such but for the fact that a few simple experiments conducted in the kitchen of his home opened him to a new field of endeavor which was destined to make him one of the most widely known manufacturers in the United States. Asa M. Fitch, who was known throughout the United States, was born in Charlestown, Indiana, February 22, 1850. He received his education in the public school of his home community and began his business career in Lexington, Indiana, where he conducted a general store. He was the inventor of chewing gum, as a confection, the manufacturing of which has become one of the most thriving industries in the United States.
In 1870, after much experimenting and mixing of the ingredients in a teacup in his own kitchen, he produced a chewing gum which he believed to be satisfactory and which he placed on the market under the most discouraging circumstances. The druggists of the time were not interested in anything like chewing gum and did not believe that such a product would ever become a big seller. The lack of trade-mark laws at the time caused many difficulties for it was exceedingly hard to prevent unscrupulous manufacturers from infringing on his rights. Mr. Fitch first perfected and produced a gum which was known as “Taffy-Tulu,” and he traveled throughout the country introducing his discovery during the period from 1870 to 1882. The business grew so rapidly that the factory at Lexington could no longer accommodate the needs of the new industry by 1882, and in that year, Mr. Fitch moved his enterprise to a new factory in Seymour, Indiana, where the concern operated under the name of the A.M. Fitch company. The business grew with leaps and bounds so that by 1890 he had an enterprise that was valued at $30,000.
The territory of the company was one of national scope, including the New England states and New York. At this time, a fire occurred in the building adjacent to the factory of the A.M. Fitch company and owing to the fact that the water works of the town was then undergoing repairs it was unable to supply water to control the blaze and as a result the entire plant of the Fitch company was totally destroyed. This disastrous fire occurred in the days of wildcat insurance and Mr. Fitch was able to collect only a small portion of the insurance he carried on the plant. A suit to recover damages was carried to the Supreme Court, and a decision: “Water Works to Individual Liability,” which was handed down established a precedent for similar cases throughout the country.
During the year 1891 Mr. Fitch gave his attention to the introduction of his attachment for plows. His first invention of this nature which ran on wheels, and which regulated the depth of the furrows was exhibited by the government at the World’s Fair in 1892. These plows were manufactured and sold throughout the United States and Canada. After successfully placing his plow on the market Mr. Fitch again turned his attention to the manufacturing of chewing gum. His new plant he established in Indianapolis at 66 South Pennsylvania Street. The business grew with such rapidity that he was soon obliged to purchase a new building on Fort Wayne Avenue, which he remodeled into one of the best chewing gum factories in the country. He continued operations in this factory until 1918 when he retired, selling the business to the A.M. Fitch Manufacturing company.
Asa M. Fitch died October 20, 1923, and with his passing Indiana lost one of its ablest and shrewdest businessmen.