Bowman Gum was a Philadelphia-based manufacturer of bubble gum and trading cards in the period surrounding World War II.
During the 1930s, Bowman Gum issued the first chewing gum cards, which included a war series.
Bowman Gum was originally known as Gum, Inc. and it produced a series of cards known as the "Play Ball" sets each year from 1939 to 1941. Production halted after the United States entered the war.
The company did not return to making baseball, football, and other sports-related trading cards until 1948, now under the Bowman name.
In 1948 Bowman Gum issued its first baseball issue. While not being well designed, these small black-and-white cards started the baseball card industry as we know it. Bowman sold their cards with a stick of bubble gum.
Also in 1948, Bowman Gum produced a series of 72 cards devoted entirely to basketball. It was the only hoops set Bowman made and the only nationally distributed basketball set until Topps debuted one about a decade later. The Bowman set contains a card of legendary George Mikan.
The 1951 Bowman issue is an extremely attractive issue and includes rookie cards of baseball Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
For a few years, Bowman was the leading producer of baseball cards but was overtaken by Topps. After a period in which Topps and Bowman fought to sign players to exclusive contracts for their cards, Topps bought out Bowman in 1956.
The Bowman brand was resurrected by Topps in the late 1980s.
In recent years, the Bowman company has become known as the top brand in baseball for rookie cards.