Maxwell House Coffee
If you’re a Maxwell, how many times has it happened to you? You introduce yourself to someone and hear: “Are you related to the coffee people?” If you’ve wondered who those “coffee people” are, the answer might surprise you.
Maxwell House Coffee is actually named for a hotel, the Maxwell House, in Nashville, Tennessee. The hotel was named for Harriet Maxwell, wife of its builder, Colonel John Overton, Jr., and it was thought to be so opulent for a city of only 16,986 that it was popularly known as “Overton’s Folly” when construction began in 1856. Work on the hotel was halted by the Civil War, and Union forces used the unfinished building to house their prisoners.
After the war, the Maxwell House was completed and became one of the best known hotels in the United States, serving as a social mecca for more than 100 years. Presidents who stayed at the Maxwell House included Rutherford B. Hayes, William Henry Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. And the hotel’s celebrity guest list included countless other notables such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, Buffalo Bill, and Tom Thumb.
While staying at the Maxwell House Hotel, President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the “house blend” of coffee so much that he raved about it being “good to the last drop.” The Check-Neal Company, which supplied the hotel’s coffee, wisely saw a good marketing opportunity. They began packaging and selling the hotel’s house blend as Maxwell House Coffee, using President Roosevelt’s remark in its advertising. Both the coffee and the slogan caught on with the American public, and Maxwell House Coffee is still a standard on grocery shelves throughout the land.
The old hotel was destroyed by fire in 1961, though its name lives on in the Regal Maxwell House Hotel at a different location in Nashville. And, of course, the name lives on in Maxwell House Coffee, which is still advertised as “Good to the Last Drop.”