Moxie: Maine in a Bottle

Moxie: Maine in a Bottle

by Jim Baumer

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In this compendium of all things Moxie, Maine author Jim Baumer shows us why this soft drink has garnered such a loyal and vocal following. Through history, photos, festivals, and more, Moxie: Maine in a Bottle will make you feel like you have Moxie too! Representing old-fashioned values and a sense of community, Moxie is a heaping slice of Americana delivered

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In this compendium of all things Moxie, Maine author Jim Baumer shows us why this soft drink has garnered such a loyal and vocal following. Through history, photos, festivals, and more, Moxie: Maine in a Bottle will make you feel like you have Moxie too! Representing old-fashioned values and a sense of community, Moxie is a heaping slice of Americana delivered Maine-style.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“If you take a certain pride in drinking Moxie, admittedly an acquired taste, and like to kid those who can’t man up and appreciate that bitter aftertaste, you’ll need to read Jim Baumer’s second book on the subject: Moxie: Maine in a Bottle. It’ll give you a lot of ammunition for those nonbelievers, and a ton of entertainment, taken preferably with a bottle or two of the brew.” —- George Smith,, 3/12/12

“Baumer has taken Maine’s adopted soft drink and turned its story into a fun tale of how a medicinal elixir created in 1885 became an iconic beverage.”— Bill Bushnell, Kennebec Journal, 5/24/12

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Down East Books
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Moxie Maine in a Bottle

By Jim Baumer

Down East

Copyright © 2011 Jim Baumer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-60893-043-2

Chapter One

A Somewhat Brief History of Moxie


In the latter days of the nineteenth century, the development of patent medicines was a popular pursuit of fledgling inventors, backroom chemists, and other assorted types. Long before the days of branding and Madison Avenue marketing, products often burst on the scene to much fanfare and quickly faded from view, left solely to the most loyal consumers who. their own right could only be described as cult aficionados.

Located in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts the city of Lowell in the 1880s was an industrial city, with huge textile facilities lining the Merrimack River. While textile production was the anchor industry of the area, numerous manufacturers of patent medicines and various elixirs also set up shop in the city.

On July 16, 1885, Dr. Augustin Thompson filed trademark number 12,565 (subsequently registered on September 8, 1885) for a product he called Moxie Nerve Food.

Thompson's trademark indicated that Moxie "has not a drop of medicine, poison, stimulant, or alcohol in its composition."

Later on, Thompson's application stated that Moxie was "a liquid preparation charged with soda for the cure of paralysis, softening of the brain, and mental imbecility and called Moxie Nerve Food." It is comprised in the class of medical compounds."

The trademark application specified that Thompson chose the word Moxie arbitrarily and that he had been using the term in hits business to describe his drink since April 1. 1884. Later, Moxie collectors and other historians split hairs about whether the drink originated in 1884 or 1885. For marketing purposes, at least from the 1940s onward, ads stated that Moxie had been around since 1884.

After filing his patent, Thompson began thinking of ways to market his drink/elixir, which led to the legend of Lieutenant Moxie.

According to the legend, Lieutenant Moxie was a friend of Dr. Thompson. He had amassed a considerable fortune through speculation in oil around the world. After acquiring tubercular consumption from his mother, Moxie traveled to various regions of the world in search of a cure. In the mountains of South America, he discovered a medicinal plant, later known to be gentian root, being used by natives, to cure various ailments. Finding that it elicited a positive reaction on his own nervous system, Thompson claims the Lieutenant shipped a supply of the medicinal root, with the history of its use, to him in Lowell.

Thompson noted, "I found it cured anything caused by nervous exhaustion. It restored nervous people who were tired out mentally or physically; stopped the appetite for intoxicants in old drunkards, insanity, blindness from overtaxing the sight, paralysis, all but hereditary sick-headache, loss of manhood from excesses, made people able to stand twice their usual amount of labor: mentally or physically, with less fatique. It cured two cases of softening of the brain, and recovered helpless limbs. ! found it to be neither medicine nor stimulant, but a nerve food, and harmless as milk." [from The Moxie Encyclopedia, Volume I, The History, by Q. David Bowers!

News spread quickly of claims of Moxie's medicinal qualities, and demand for Thompson's product saw him begin production, bottling 27,000 bottles per week.

What began as a local phenomenon quickly expanded beyond the soda fountains and stores of Lowell. By July of 1885, Moxie was made in four large factories, with distribution throughout New England and New York. Production now exceeded 500,000 bottles. Wholesale dealers were being added all the time and sales agents were acquired in Rochester, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; and as far west as Chicago, Illinois.

While numerous vacations on the Moxie legend appeared over the next several decades, it was obvious that Thompson's original product had struck a nerve with consumers in New England and elsewhere. Where Thompson garnered the Moxie name will always be a point of conjecture, particularly whether or not Moxie was a name that originated from Maine geography It's possible he saw the name Moxie on a map of the state, like Moxie Lake, Moxie Mountain, or East Moxie Township.

One thing we do know is that Dr. Augustin Thompson was born in Union, Maine, on November 25, 1835. He received his education in the public schools of Union and apprenticed to a blacksmith at the age of sixteen. Young Thompson tried to develop a passion for his new trade, but he found it too confining and was never able to put his whole being into it.

As was common of self-taught men from the era, young Thompson spent much of his time studying. A voracious reader, Thompson acquired books wherever he could find them. He taught himself Latin and German and his small library continued to expand.

As an adult, Thompson stood five feet, ten inches tall and though he might have been perceived as something of an intellectual, in the Civil War he was still able to mix it up with the best of his Company G of the 28th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. After enlisting in September 1862, Thompson did his part, and was even commended twice for gallantry in battle.

During one such battle, Thompson was struck in the chest by a rifle butt and was subsequently diagnosed with tuberculosis. From the complications that came with the disease, Thompson received an honorable discharge and returned to Maine in August of 1863.

After the war, Thompson enrolled at Hahne-mann Homeopathic College in Philadelphia, where he studied medicine and graduated at the head of his class. In August 1867, he returned to New England, to Lowell, Massachusetts, a burgeoning industrial city of nearly 40,000. This seemed like the ideal place to establish his fledgling practice.

Thompson built his practice into one of the largest in the city. According to an 1897 biography, he worked nearly eighteen hours a day, without vacation, church attendance, or other respites. Through overwork, the once vigorous Thompson "broke down and was obliged to build himself to vigor again." This need to restore his health and vitality was how he came to invent Moxie.

A devoted teetotaler, who also forswore tobacco products of any kind, Thompson was particularly interested in remedies and so-called cures for alcoholism. He developed a solution to addiction called the New England Cure for Alcoholism. This product achieved limited popularity and was utilized by a variety pf health professionals.

Thompson was a meticulous keeper of journals. His notes indicate that he had developed a theory that he would later expand into book form. Thompson believed that illness should be treated gradually He also had come to the conclusion that as diseases developed from small beginnings, it was likewise logical to treat them the same way–with small doses progressing to larger doses. This developed from the theories prominent among other homeopathic professionals of the era. By the mid-1880s, nerve foods-Moxie was just one of many–had become popular with readers of newspapers and other advertising periodicals.

Moxie's growing popularity necessitated that Thompson eventually give up his lucrative medical practice and devote himself full time to merchandising his nerve food.

In 1888 and early 89, with Thompson receiving a regular salary of $100 per month. Moxie was on its way to being a prosperous product. The product established extensive distribution channels, with beachheads in major urban areas such as Cleveland, Ohio, and George Walker's Western Moxie Nerve Food Company in Chicago. Walker's Moxie Bottle Wagon helped make Moxie one of the most popular beverages in the American West.

As salesmen fanned out over the Midwest, they handed out aluminum tokens that read "Good for one drink of Moxie at the Moxie Bottle Wagon." These tokens had the image of the single-horse Moxie Bottle Wagon stamped on them. Because the tokens were quite elegant and shiny, it became common for young girls and older ladies to punch a hole in the token, loop a chain or decorative cord through them, and wear them as pendants. On the other hand, men and boys saw them as good-luck pieces, so they often ended up in drawers instead of being handed to the Bottle Wagon drivers for a free drink of Moxie, As a result, many of these tokens continue to be discovered and are a coveted Moxie collectible.

The Moxie Bottle Wagons traveled from town to town and were an effective advertising tool for Moxie In an August 1969 article in Yankee magazine titled "The Moxie Man," Edna Hills Humphrey wrote how her father, Charles E. Hills, who, as a Dartmouth medical student, spent one summer vacation driving a Moxie Bottle Wagon around New England "experiencing all the joys and passions of a young man out on his own."

Thompson possessed the skills of an entrepreneur and his passion and creativity around promotion helped his drink's popularity soar. Despite the success of Moxie, he missed his medical practice, and in 1889 he reestablished a practice in Lowell, specializing in homeopathic medicine and surgery.

Around this time, William Taylor, an active Moxie agent in upstate New York, entered into an agreement with Thompson. Taylor's success with Moxie had allowed him to establish his own trading company, William Taylor b Company, and he became a lessee of The Moxie Nerve Food Company within Massachusetts, taking over for Thompson. Thompson received $5,000 per year from this arrangement and acquired the title of general manager of Taylor's company.

During the 1890s, William Taylor & Company added new products to their roster, such as Moxie Lozenges, Moxie Catarrh Cure, Dr. Thompson's Condensed Medicated Wafers, Moxie Syrup, and Moxie Cerealina. Moxie continued to expand westward, opening bottling operations in St. Louis and then Kansas City, Missouri.

By 1892, a reorganization of the Moxie empire was under way. The activities of William Taylor & Co. were being curtailed and a new firm was established.

On December 26, 1892, in Saco, Maine, The Moxie Nerve Food Company of New England was established, with offices in Boston and Lowell. Later, the Moxie Nerve Food Company of Illinois was created and operated for the next decade, before dissolving in June of 1901.

Dr. Thompson's rich and prolific life had entered its twilight. Over the last decade of his life, he continued to write plays, advertisements for Moxie, and a series of letters to newspaper editors covering such topics as geography, economics, the law, and his favorite–politics.

On November 17 1902, Thompson sought copyright for a 114-page book, The Origin and Continuance of Life: Together with the Development of a System of Medical Administration on the Law of the Similars, from a Discovery of its Principles in the Law of Natural Affinities. The book contained an illustration of a new invention, the Thompson Vitalizer, a contraption consisting of tanks of compressed gas, tubes, and other related apparatus. Thompson envisioned a series of parlors, up and down the East Coast.

Thompson passed away on June 8, 1903, at the age of 67.

Moxie Hits the Big Time

Compared to today's ubiquitous soft drink advertising, Moxie's groundbreaking campaigns of the early twentieth century were miniscule by comparison. For the time, however, Moxie set the standard for innovative ways to market a product.

Starting with the horse-drawn Moxie Bottle Wagons in Chicago and replicated elsewhere, the Moxie brand was being introduced to fairgoers and others across the country.

What became an even more effective catalyst of publicity was a series of Moxie cars. The idea, developed by Thompson's son, Francis, now president of the company, included a variety of styles and makes.

Some of the cars were white Stanley Steamers and Locomobiles. Others were manufactured by Stevens-Duryea. Thompson even had regular Buicks modified to be delivery trucks, with coolers mounted on the back.

In an account taken from the Norway Advertiser, reporter Harry A. Packard describes riding around the half-mile dirt track at the Oxford County Fair in a Moxie car having received the coveted invitation to take a spin around the track in the 30-horsepower Buick from Moxie sales agent Lewis St. John.

To ride in the famous Moxie automobile around the track at the annual county fair was the good fortune of this Advertiser reporter. The mile was made in the remarkable time of one minute and 44 seconds, and the greater part of the mighty speed contest was better than a mile-a-minute clip.

Obviously impressed by his ride with St John, Packard effused

For the man who has never traveled a mile a minute in a racing automobile, the brief space of a minute and 44 seconds with Mr. St. John was indeed a revelation. When one comes to consider that the Moxie automobile is heavily loaded and that the curves of the Oxford County track are very sharp for such speed, the time made was really marvelous. Sitting in the luxurious automobile at ease among the cushions, one feels practically no sensation except the whiz through space. There is no jar from the motor or engine–the old-time rumble of early model machines is an unknown quantity in this 20th century marvel. Around the curves the power is shut off; then when the straight track is reached it's a mighty whiz through the air a few seconds at fully a 75-mile-an-hour clip, watching the road ahead, on-on at rapid speed. A glorious ride. There in no motion or jar–it is like the graceful glide of a sled upon a smooth snow-dad hillside.

Throughout New England, New York, and states to the west, the Moxie automobile had a profound effect on anyone who had the pleasure of witnessing members of the Moxie mobile fleet.

Frank Archer: Moxie's Marketing Genius

As the nation's first mass-marketed soft drink, Moxie was ahead of its time. While Dr. Thompson was the drink's originator, no one was more directly responsible for its amazing popularity during the first two decades of the twentieth century than Frank Archer, Moxie's marketing genius.

Archer was born in Lincoln, Maine, on August 12, 1862, the son of a doctor. The young Archer acquired his love for roaming at an early age, when he accompanied his father on his rounds through all manner of Maine weather, visiting the sick and infirm. After attending public school in Bangor and working briefly there, young Archer moved to Boston.

Archer's Moxie career began rather inauspiciously as a soda clerk, but by 1900 he was heading up all Moxie advertising, overseeing two agencies, and drawing a yearly salary of $4,000, a considerable sum for the time. Ambitious to a fault, Archer saw many possibilities for promoting the soft drink. In early 1901, he began utilizing billboards in large cities such as Boston, Providence,) Lawrence, Lowell, Haverhill, New York City, and Philadelphia. These billboards, as well as cardboard signs attached to wagons; streetcars, and trains read, "Don't Forget to Order Moxie."

Archer was relentless, and ingenious in his promotional activities, and utilized a variety of marketing devices to get the word out about Moxie. One clever ploy was taking an 1898 photograph of Theodore Roosevelt and preparing life-size cut outs of the president, with the inscription "The Leading Exponent of a Strenuous Life." The implication was that by drinking Moxie you could lead a strenuous or adventuresome life just like Roosevelt.

Later, Archer penned The TNT Cowboy, a fictional account of Fred, a heroic character who, like Roosevelt, had been born in the East, went West for adventure, and then moved back East The slim pocket-size book was a reworking of the popular Horatio Alger myth of a young boy who overcomes his meager beginnings through hard work and perseverance. The traits embodied by young Fred–manliness, cleanliness, and right living–were perfect themes to build Moxie's advertising around at the time. The adventures of the TNT Cowboy found themselves interspersed throughout much of Moxie's advertising during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

It was Archer who came up with the Moxie Man, a character who some say bore a close resemblance to Archer himself. This image, which became synonymous with Moxie, showed up on much of the advertising material, often pointing a finger and admonishing the reader to "Drink Moxie."

Taking full advantage of the automobile, Archer maximized opportunities for advertising the soft drink. On February 27, 1917, Archer was granted a patent for an ornamental design of an automobile. The patent gave him carte blanche to ornament the chassis of any car he deemed appropriate, utilizing the technique described in the patent–mounting a dummy horse on the chassis, with the driver operating the particular vehicle while seated on the horse. Archer created a fleet of such vehicles and called them Moxie Horsemobiles. These became real attention- getters at parades and fairs.

Frank Potter's The Book of Moxie contains a quote from Oliver Purdy on the early horses used for the Moxie Horsemobiles:

They had a problem with the early Horsemobiles," said Purdy who was Archer's nephew and sales manager. "Some of them were harness makers' display horses made of plaster. The vibration of the vehicle would crack them; so the drivers carried a supply of white tape to patch the cracks.


Excerpted from Moxie Maine in a Bottle by Jim Baumer Copyright © 2011 by Jim Baumer. Excerpted by permission of Down East. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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