A Chief Executive with Moxie

We know Calvin Coolidge had “the ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage” –  so, by the dictionary definition, he certainly had “moxie.” It is also claimed that the eponimous soft drink, which pre-dates Coca-Cola or Pepsi by a couple of years and which originated in Lowell, Massachusetts, was a favorite in the Coolidge household. I’ve even read that Moxie was the beverage with which Calvin Coolidge  toasted his midnight swearing-in as U.S. president.

Due to its main ingredient, gentian root, Moxie has a strong medicinal bitter-sweet smell and flavor and is certainly an acquired taste. Gentian is supposed to help digestion and soothe the stomach, which may have appealed to Coolidge who suffered from digestive problems all his adult life.

Moxie was the nation’s first mass-marketed soft drink thanks to the head of its advertising campaign Frank M. Archer. Archer had started out as a clerk at the company and worked his way up into the position, where his advertising program made Moxie America’s most popular soft drink up until the 1920’s. A common sight in Moxie advertising was the “Moxie Man”, said to be a likeness of Archer himself. He showed up on much of the advertising material, often pointing a finger and admonishing the reader to “Drink Moxie”. A pioneering commercial jingle for the nation’s first mass-marketed soft drink was produced in 1904  on the occasion of the St. Louis World’s fair, with lyrics that went:

…just make it Moxie for Mine,
For the strenuous life it is fine.
It’s a drink that they serve,
Which will build up your nerve.
So just make it Moxie for Mine!

Maybe Coolidge also felt the drink fortified him for his strenuous job as president. Or maybe it was the marketing claim that drinking “the distinctive beverage for those of discerning taste” showed refinement and culture. In any event, Coolidge would be pleased to know that Moxie still ekes out a place on grocery shelves in New England and is consumed by loyal fans who wisely ignore the fact that the brand today is owned by a Japanese brewing giant.


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