Ford Gum

Ford Gum.
Many baby boomers who grew up around Lockport have fond youthful memories of standing outside or reaching inside an open window at the Ford Gum plant at the corner of Church and Niagara streets in hopes of getting their hands on a mouthful of those delicious sweet confections that were produced there. This business and its unique Fordway distribution plan were the brainchild of Ford S. Mason who began this interesting venture in 1913 when he borrowed money and leased 102 gumball machines, placing them in businesses around Western New York. After WWI the Ford Vending Machine Company was formed with a plant located in Lockport. The Great Depression did its worst to end the business, but, down but not out, Mason started another iteration of his company in 1934 and patented the candy coating for gumballs. He also developed the machinery to stamp the Ford name on each of his little confections, as a mark of quality.

During WWII, metal and sugar were scare so the company had to cut back its production of new gumball machines and candy gumballs. Instead, the business turned its production over to making war products as a sub-contractor of Harrison Radiator. Following the war, Ford Mason began a fundraising and distribution program whereby charitable organizations could set up and maintain his gumball machines in return for a portion of the proceeds. This arrangement turned out to be the key to success for his company. The business prospered throughout the 1940s and soon needed to expand to a larger building than the former First Congregational Church built in 1857. Also, food inspectors were adamant about the need for a different facility for the business, as the old building did not meet modern standards for a food processing plant. In 1960, Ford Gum relocated to Akron, New York in a former food processing facility, where the company continues today. Ford Gum is still one of the largest producers of gumballs in the United States with over 500,000 round gumball machines in operation, sitting on counters or standing on pipe pedestals in businesses from coast to coast.

Charles Penney was a fan of local businesses and collecting artifacts that tell their stories was his mission. The Penney Gallery is pleased to display some of the early Ford Gum vending equipment.

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