Most of us remember watching television and seeing a Maxwell House coffee commercial. The slogan, “good to the last drop,” became ingrained in our minds and sent many of us out to the local grocery store to purchase a can of this delicious coffee.
While the name and commercials may be familiar to all of us, the coffee’s origins are not. This world-famous coffee made its appearance in 1892 but there is so much more to the story. Let’s take a look at the origins of Maxwell House coffee and even learn where the unforgettable slogan they continue to use came from.
How It All Began
This coffee story begins in 1873 when a farm boy from Kentucky, Joel Cheek, decided to seek a new life in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon arriving in the new city, Joel found a job working for a wholesale grocery as a traveling salesman. During his travels, Cheek met a man from Britain named Roger Smith. The two men soon discovered they had something in common: a love for coffee.
Smith was a coffee broker who boasted to anyone who would hear him that he could tell the origins of a coffee by simply smelling unroasted, green beans. While Cheek couldn’t make the same claims, he had developed a roast of his own, and hoped it would become the best in the southern region.
The Maxwell House Hotel
Located in Nashville, Tennessee the Maxwell House Hotel was established by a former Civil War colonel, John Overton, Jr. This hotel was considered one of the most prestigious in the city. It provided temporary lodging to presidents, famous entertainers, politicians, and businessmen who stopped by Nashville for a visit.
Knowing the reputation of Maxwell House Hotel, Cheek pressed the hotel’s restaurant to carry his new coffee blend. Eventually, they gave in. The hotel decided to provide the coffee exclusively to their guests. In only a few weeks, hotel guests were loving Cheek’s coffee. One famous guest, President Theodore Roosevelt, even called the blend, “good to the last drop,” providing Cheek with the slogan we’d all become accustomed to.
Maxwell House Coffee Is Born
With the popularity of his blend at the Maxwell House Hotel, Cheek decided it was time to start production. He reached out to a lawyer who worked for the same grocery he was employed by. The two of them worked together and Cheek-Neal Coffee and Manufacturing was created. In 1903, the duo began the construction of their first Maxwell House plant located in Nashville. In 1928, Cheek-Neal Coffee and Manufacturing was sold to Postum Company for nearly $40 million. Postum decided to change the coffee company’s name to Maxwell House Products Corporation.
Over the years, Maxwell House has expanded its operations and become one of the most popular coffees in the country. They now have decaffeinated versions, instant coffee versions, and even measured varieties. While Joe Cheek passed away in 1936 at the ripe age of 83 and the Maxwell House Hotel was destroyed by fire in the 60s, both the creator and namesake of Maxwell House coffee would be proud of the success the company has had over the years.
While there is some debate on whether the former president truly called Maxwell House coffee “good to the last drop” there is no denying the appeal this coffee has for many. The next time you sit down to enjoy a nice cup of Maxwell House coffee, you can think back on where it came from and who you should be thanking for such a wonderful cup of coffee in your cup.