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Teddy Roosevelt’s Coffee House Proverb

For The Madera Tribune

Theodore Roosevelt.


Theodore Roosevelt is remembered as much for his one-liners as he is for his achievements as the nation’s 26th president. What American can forget his maxim, “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” or his admonition, “Don’t hit a man if you can possibly avoid it, but if you do hit him, put him to sleep.” Roosevelt’s well-known aphorisms have become part of his legacy. However, one of his most popular sayings is repeated almost every day without folks knowing that it was Teddy who coined the phrase in 1903.

In that year, Roosevelt went on a tour of the country, which took him to Nashville, Tennessee. He stayed in a popular hotel, which had served as a social Mecca since before the Civil War. Nashville’s famous hotel had much to commend it to high society. In addition to lavishly furnished rooms, it offered its pampered guests the ultimate in service, but its real claim to fame was its coffee. Especially prepared by the hotel’s kitchen staff, the very smell of the morning brew brought Nashville’s fancy visitors alive and a sip or two was described as pure elixir.

On the first morning of his first visit to the hotel, Roosevelt, who never was sluggish about getting up in the morning, received an unexpected lift from his first cup of house coffee. The President savored those dregs and then asked for more. When he saw the bottom of his last cup, he turned to his attendant and in characteristic fashion pontificated that the brew was “good to the last drop,” and that’s how the theme for Maxwell House coffee came into being.

For you see, the hotel in which the President was staying was the Maxwell House, named for its owner’s wife, Harriet Maxwell. In a delicious twist in time, President Theodore Roosevelt gave the establishment’s coffee such a boost with his “good to the last drop” testimonial, that it soon found a national market. Before long everyone was singing the praises of Maxwell House coffee and proclaiming that it was “good to the last drop,” and thus it remains to this very day, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt and his way with words.

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