Moxie, Maine’s homegrown soda
There’s Coke, there’s Pepsi, and there’s 7 Up…but in the state of Maine, the soda they celebrate is Moxie. It’s a drink that actually outsold Coca-Cola nationally in the 1920s — and even gave us a new word, meaning “pluck, courage and strength,” said Moxie fan Merrill Lewis. “Few people know that this word came from drinking.”
Lewis enjoys spreading his favorite drink at the Moxie Museum in Union, Maine, the birthplace of Dr. Augustin Thompson, who began selling his Moxie Nerve Food in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1885.
Correspondent Nancy Giles asked, “What were some of the claims about things it could cure?”
“It could cure nervous exhaustion, loss of virility, impotence,” Lewis said. “I like to say everything from bad breath to fingernails!”
Jim Baumer, who wrote the book about Moxie, said, “Moxie was really the Viagra of its time.”
The drink’s heyday was in the early 1900s. “Every major city in America had a big billboard advertising Moxie, [as well as] sides of buildings with the Moxie logo with these ads painted on them,” Baumer said. “You had Moxie in magazines. Wherever there was a marketing presence, Moxie would jump in and be a part of it.”
It was a marketing blitz unprecedented at the time, featuring Moxie songs, celebrity endorsements, a Moxie toy, and Moxie candy.
Listen to “Moxie (One Step)” from 1921 (music by Norman Leigh, lyrics by Dennis J. Shea), performed by Arthur Fields:
And something called the Moxie horsemobile – a horse mounted on a car chassis that was driven around the country.
And a boy Moxie, with eyes like Rudolph Valentino. “Yeah, the guy that’s pointing, and he’s got dark eyes, and he’s pointing at you saying, ‘Drink my Moxie or I’ll kill you’!” laughed Louis.
And if the Moxie boy looks familiar, in Moxie lore, he inspired the iconic World War I recruiting poster featuring Uncle Sam.
Every summer (with a two-year break due to COVID), people from all over the world gather in Lisbon Falls, Maine to celebrate Moxie, with parades. bake-offs, with entries like Moxie Barbecue Baked Beans (“You’ve got to have as much Moxie as possible,” the chef said). Moxie memorabilia? and Moxie ice cream.
Back in 2000, when “Sunday Morning” last visited Lisbon Falls, Frank Anicetti (who helped create the Moxie Festival) said, “If you drink Moxie, you’ve got moxie – and you’ve got moxie if you drink Moxie. So simple!”
By now, you’re probably wondering what Moxie tastes like. Well, it’s kind of hard to describe, but that doesn’t stop anyone from trying. One man said, “It’s like root beer and coke and coffee all together, and you mix it, and it’s really hot [or] cold.”
Aaron Sheridan offered: “Tastes like a rough root beer.”
Brittany Payne, decked out in her “Ms. Moxie” sash, said, “Personally, I think it tastes like a little bit of straight root bear, a little bit of flat Pepsi, mixed with a little bit of cough syrup.”
Well, there you have it – a soft drink that inspired a word and, according to Moxie lovers, might be just what we need today. As Merrill Lewis said, “What this country needs is plenty of moxie!”
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Story production by Mary Lou Teel. Editor: George Pozderec.