Courtesy of The New York Post

Mex general’s Staten ex-isle

By Susannah Cahalan November 13, 2011 | 5:00am

HISTORY: Auction items include a proclamation (left) by deposed Mexican leader Santa Anna (right), a relic of his 19th century exile in Staten Island, where he unknowingly set Chiclets chewing gum in motion. (


Staten Island might want to forget the Alamo.

In a little known chapter of Big Apple history, the Mexican villain of the infamous battle, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, lived in exile for nearly a decade in the future Big Apple borough.


                      (General Santa Ana)

While there he hatched plots to win back his country and, oddly, played an unlikely role in the invention of chewing gum, according to documents now being auctioned online.

Before retiring to the borough’s bucolic North Shore hills, Santa Anna was the fearsome “Napoleon of the West.” In early 1836, the general, who was also the president of Mexico, led a 1,500-man army against a brave band of 200 Texans near present-day San Antonio. The freedom fighters, whose ranks included Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, heroically fended off the Mexicans for 13 days before annihilation.

“Remember the Alamo” became the rallying cry of the Texans who two months later captured Santa Anna and forced him to recognize Lone Star independence. The general was then exiled to the United States, where he befriended President Andrew Jackson and Staten Islander Gilbert L. Thompson, son in law of New York Gov. Daniel Tompkins.


General Santa Ana Recruiting Officer’s & Men in NYC 1866

(Courtesy of The NY Times 1866)

He eventually returned to Mexico and, after repeated attempts to win back power, Santa Anna was sentenced to death in 1865.

His friend, Thompson, sailed a schooner to Mexico, smuggled Santa Anna out, and brought him to his Staten Island home overlooking New York Harbor.

The New York island was the perfect place for the deposed dictator to hide as the nation focused on the aftermath of the Civil War. But his ambitions still burned, and he continued to concoct plots to regain control of Mexico, even recruiting people to the cause and raising capital.

One of his funding schemes involved importing rubber like chicle, the waxy part of the sapodilla tree, to manufacture carriage tires.

He never turned a profit, but the ton of chicle he obtained was eventually used by his aide, Thomas Adams, to invent the chewing gum Chiclets.

Santa Anna returned to Mexico in 1875 and died a year later.

Now on the auction block is a proclamation Santa Anna signed in 1867 that names his interpreter in Staten Island affairs and forever links him to the city.


The online bidding at ends Thursday.

The Texas & Western Auction of artifacts and memorabilia also is selling other Battle of the Alamo relics, including Santa Anna’s battle map, with an estimated value of $500,000, and his battle orders, which are estimated at $600,000.



Courtesy of  Demonstenes

Santa Anna’s Chewing Gum

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, or just Santa Ana, was the on again off again military leader and president of Mexico in the mid 1800’s. OK, you all remember the Alamo, right? Well he was the Mexican general that totally wailed on the Texans and took the Alamo. After the fact he executed over two-hundred prisoners and did basically the same thing at Goliad. This embittered the Texas soldiers who finally defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto. The Texans found Santa Anna hiding in a trench and forced him to sign Texas away from Mexico, making it a sovereign nation (yes, Texas was its own country for nine years). Mexico City claimed that Santa Anna was not president anymore and therefore the treaty was null and void. This eventually led to the Mexican-American War, but I’ll get to that soon. Santa Anna was exiled for his failure and spent some time in America. It was only when the French tried to force Mexico to pay them did the country plea for Santa Anna to come back. Santa Anna fought bravely in the Pastry War and for his troubles he lost a leg. He worked his way back into politics due to his rekindled hero status and became president again. Then he made a lot of bad decisions and had to step down because he feared for his life. He was captured and his life spared, though he was exiled in Cuba. Then, America decided to pick a fight with Mexico over the disputed land of Texas and Mexico again needed its military leader. Anna took over again as military leader and tried unsuccessfully to fend of the American forces. He was once again exiled and this time, it stuck.

Fast forward to 1866 where Santa Anna is living in Staten Island, NY. Sounds funny already, right? Since when does America let it’s old enemy leaders just hang out in their country? Well, at that time he was 72, and no one really thought of him a threat anymore. Santa Anna apparently didn’t grasp the English language very well because he required the services of an interpreter named James Adams. Adams noticed that the old general would constantly cut slices from an unknown tropical vegetable and place the pieces in his mouth. He was told by the general that the vegetable was called “chicle.” Santa Anna left New York later that year and when he did, he granted Adam’s request to gain his stock of chicle. Adams then began experimenting with the substance, adding different sweetening agents to bolster the flavor. Soon he had “invented” chewing gum. When Adams introduced his new product to the American public, he found a willing and hungry market. Adams went on to found the Adams Chewing Gum Company, the company that came out with the original Chiclets. Adam’s company is now owned by Cadbury. So, in a weird way, we might not have had our many varieties of chewing gum had it not been for a crazy multi-deposed military dictator. 

Demosthenes at 8:17 AM




                         THE ALAMO





Further Reading General Santa Ana on Staten Island

Santa Ana on Staten Island


‘Chicle’: A Chewy Story Of The Americas : NPR