The idea of “Throw-back Thursday” seems to be gaining popularity on the internet, especially on sites like Facebook (if you haven’t, please like the Museum on Facebook!) where users post old photographs of themselves and their friends each week. While our blog comes out on Tuesday, not Thursday, we do like to think that every day is “Throw-back Thursday” at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, since we are devoted to studying and preserving history. In light of this theme, this post features two bottles from a small collection of Moxie bottles that we received as a gift in 2001. The “throw-back” part also comes from the fact that we hosted an exhibition in 1993 called “When America Had a Lot of Moxie: A History of America’s First Mass-Marketed Soft Drink.” Moxie pre-dates Coca-Cola, which was first available in 1886.
Dr. Augustin Thompson (1825-1903) of Lowell, Massachusetts, developed Moxie. Thompson was born in Maine and served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he studied medicine at Hahnemann Homeopathic College in Philadelphia. Around 1867, Thompson moved to Lowell to open a medical practice. Soon after, he began developing a recipe for what became known as “Moxie Nerve Food.”
The bottle at left dates to the 1880s or 1890s when the drink was still marketed as “Moxie Nerve Food.” Thompson began selling his remedy in 1884 or 1885. When he applied for a patent in 1885, he explained that it was “a liquid preparation charged with soda for the cure of paralysis, softening of the brain, and mental imbecility.” The drink caught on in New England and sold widely. In 1886, one of Thompson’s sons, Francis E., and Freeman N. Young, constructed the first Moxie Bottle Wagon – a horse-drawn four-wheel cart with a replica of a Moxie bottle on the back (see some pictures here). Many variations were subsequently made and the bottle wagon became one of Moxie’s chief advertising gimmicks.
Moxie continues to be sold up to the present day – see the bottle from 1963 at right, which was bottled in Needham Heights, Massachusetts, in a bottle from the Glenshaw Glass Company in Pennsylvania. However, it has been many decades since the company was able to claim that it cured any medical conditions. Today, it is considered a great-tasting, refreshing beverage by its fans, although they also acknowledge that it is an acquired taste. Are you a fan? Do you collect Moxie memorabilia? Tell us about it in a comment below.
Q. David Bowers, The Moxie Encyclopedia: Volume 1 – The History (Wolfesboro, NH: The Vestal Press, 1985).
Frank N. Potter, The Book of Moxie (Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1987).
Top: Moxie Nerve Food Bottle, 1880-1900, unidentified maker, United States. Gift of Peter G. Huntsman, 2001.051.4. Photograph by David Bohl.
Bottom: Moxie Bottle, 1963, Glenshaw Glass Company, Glenshaw, PA. Gift of Peter G. Huntsman, 2001.051.2. Photograph by David Bohl.