THE RICHEST COFFEE IN THE HOUSE: The Maxwell House Story

(Background doodle art by Jenn Webster)

Since we are into the preparation mode for the annual Coffee Day on September 29th, I think that it is very well time that yours truly tell you a nice, little story about how one brand of coffee came to be-In 1884 a man by the name of Joel Cheek was a wholesale grocer; After moving to Nashville and having met a British coffee broker named Roger Nolley Smith, the two began to work on building the most perfect blend of coffee…

And so, in 1892 the food buyer for a place called the Maxwell House Hotel was approached by Cheek and had given him for free 20 pounds of his special blend. But after the product was gone in a few days, the hotel went back to using its other brand, but customers started to complain that they liked Cheek’s coffee a whole lot better! Thus, the hotel exclusively bought Cheek’s blend, and so the coffee became named as it is named today: Maxwell House Coffee.

In 1915 there was to be a slogan for that certain coffee if this then-new company was going to be famous, so both Cheek and Neal began using a certain slogan for Maxwell House Coffee in which I think it is still being in use today: “Good the The Last Drop”; the originator for that phrase was Theodore Roosevelt, but the ads have made no mention of him for several years. However, by the 1930s, advertisements run by the company claimed that the former president took a sip of Maxwell House Coffee while visiting the estate of Andrew Jackson called The Hermitage near Nashville, TN on October 21st, 1907; He proclaimed it to be “good to the last drop” when served the coffee. Coca-Cola had also used that certain slogan during that time.

Maxwell House would later distance itself from the from the slogan’s original claim, and admitted that it was written by Clifford Spiller, who was the former president of General Foods Corporation, and therefore not coming from a Roosevelt remark that had been overheard by Cheek-Neal; That slogan has remained a registered trademark of the product from General Foods Corporation and has appeared on the logo since.

It seems that Maxwell House Coffee became popular, only for a time as an INSTANT coffee, during World War II; In 1942, General Foods Corporation had contracted to supply instant coffee to the U.S. Armed Forces, and beginning in the fall of 1945, this instant coffee began entering into test markets in the eastern United States, beginning national distribution in the following years, while the product had been branded as Maxwell House Instant Coffee. In 1966, Maxwell House began to introduce a coffee that was developed specifically for electric percolators, “Maxwell House ElectraPerk”.

During the bicentennial year of 1976, Maxwell House would then introduce another new kind of coffee, called “Maxwell House A. D. C.”, and this coffee was suited for intended use for automatic drip coffee makers such as Mr. Coffee, in which were superseding traditional coffee preparation methods. Four years earlier, they have introduced its ground-coffee filter rings, “Max-Pax”, which was aimed at the then still-strong market for percolator coffee preparation. Despite the eclipsing of this method, the Max-Pax concept would be adapted into Maxwell House Filter Packs, which in 1989 were first marketed by this name, for automatic coffee maker use.

The Maxwell House blend has now been marketed in both measured and ground forms, and even whole-bean, flavored and varietal blends. Maxwell House Master Blend was introduced in 1981, while “Rich French Roast”, “Colombian Supreme”, and “1892” were all introduced to compete in the coffee market that has become increasingly competitive in 1989, and in 1992 the company would add cappuccino products to its line with Cappio Iced Cappuccino that year and Maxwell House Cappuccino in the following year. Meanwhile, General Foods began to market decaffeinated coffee under such various brand names as “Sanka”, starting from 1927, as well as “Brim” and “Maxim”; The latter was a freeze-dried instant coffee, straight from the 1950s. But until 1983 it had retained from selling decaffeinated coffee products labeled by Maxwell House, so that year it had introduced ground “Maxwell House Decaffeinated” into East Coast markets.

Beginning in the 1920s, the brand that goes by the name of Maxwell House had begun to be advertised in various forms across the U.S., while the brand had then been cited as the most well-known coffee brand according to a 1925 study of consumer goods. From 1937 to 1949 the product was the sponsor of a radio show called Maxwell House Coffee Time, which featured Baby Snooks as well as George Burns and Gracie Allen; Maxwell House also sponsored another radio show, this one called The Goldbergs, which later ran on television.

On television, Maxwell House became the sponsor of an early television series based on the play and the movie, I Remember Mama, which starred Peggy Wood of a Norwegian-American family; It ran on the CBS television network from 1949 to 1957. Perhaps what is interesting to know about this show was that it became the show that featured the very first example of product placement, the example being the family being frequently gathered around the kitchen table for a cup of Maxwell House coffee.

In the 1970s, Margret Hamilton, best known for playing the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 family film classic The Wizard of Oz (by which case the character became something of a vision of how one would describe the mother-in-law), portrayed Cora, a general store owner in a series of TV commercial campaigns who proudly announced that Maxwell House was the only brand that she has sold.

Today, Maxwell House continues to be the brand that most coffee/java nerds know best, and since Coffee Day is coming up soon, then maybe you should offer a toast to that certain coffee brand that is always “Good to the Last…Drop!” That drop’s good too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s