Moxie Tonic

Usually I associate ‘moxie’ with the kinds of roles Barbara Stanwyck played in the 1930s – a kind of poignant bravado – gutsy and tough, but perceptibly so, with a touch of regretful awareness underpinning her courage.  In fact, the word itself derives from a tonic of bitters first created in 1885, marketed under the name Moxie, which evidently helped people to ‘build up their nerve’. Thus, bitter courage. The name of the tonic might have been derived from an Abenaki word for ‘dark water’ (according to the OED), so its application to a dark, bitter liquid is logical (perhaps too logical – the nineteenth-century in America was enamoured with ‘Indian’ names).  As a beverage, Moxie was later outsold by Coca-Cola  (one of the claims for Coca-Cola was that it could cure morphine addiction – presumably by substituting morphine with mild doses of cocaine – interesting approach, but probably not clinically sound). 

According to Wikipedia (you know, sometimes one must revert to the most easily accessible source) “there is a Moxie museum in Union, Maine, which houses a 30-foot-tall wooden Moxie bottle, once used as a soda stand, and other historical Moxie artifacts. This is an annex to the Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage, which is located at the Union Fairgrounds.” Some day I want to take a trip across America that consists entirely of visiting bizarre speciality collections, and the giant Moxie bottle will definitely be on my list – along with the SPAM museum in Austin, Minnesota. 

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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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