Friday, July 12, 2013

The Skinny: Maxwell House

We recently listed some great vintage coasters in our Etsy shop:
In our shop! Here

Which got us thinking about the Maxwell House Hotel, so we decided to do a little digging. Maxwell House coffee, not surprisingly, was named after the Nashville hotel where it was first served. Built in the mid-1800s, the hotel cost half a million dollars (which is a serious chunk o' change for that time period). It had a colorful history, being used as a hospital, prison, and military housing during the Civil War. In April of 1867, the hotel played host to some other infamous guests:
Early Ku Klux Klan gear; From here

In fact, this was the first official national meeting of the KKK, and marked the beginning of the group's transition to political terrorism. Maxwell House coffee wasn't introduced to the hotel until 25 years later, so imagine a gathering of angry, politically passionate, un-caffeinated men....
Maxwell House Hotel, 1925;

The hotel itself, once finished, was the height of Nashville luxury. The building's five floors held a total of 240 rooms, renting at $4 per day (including food!), and featuring gas lighting, steam heat, and a bathing room for each floor. There was a restaurant downstairs (which would later have awesome coasters!), as well as a fancy mahogany and gilt lobby, separate ladies' and gentlemen's sitting rooms, a jewelry store (Calhoun's Jewelers) and the big Bs: Barbers, Bars, and a Ballroom.

Maxwell House Hotel ballroom;
Just out of curiosity, I went to and made use of their inflation calculator. It seems like $4 in the 1860s would have been an awful lot of money. According to the calculator, though, $4 in 1867 translates to around $65 today. I feel the need to write an irate letter to the Days Inn regarding the quality of their $65 experience....

Interior, Maxwell House Hotel;
The greatest popularity of the Maxwell House Hotel was from the 1890s through World War I. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley slept there, as did Presidents Johnson, Hayes, Cleveland, Roosevelt, McKinley, Taft, and Wilson. In fact, legend has it that Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed a cup of Maxwell House coffee at breakfast one morning, and gleefully declared it "Good to the last drop!", which became the official slogan.
 I found it even more interesting that Cornelius Vanderbilt stayed at the hotel, because if a Vanderbilt stayed there, it must have been very fancy, indeed. Daily arrivals were published in the local newspaper.
March 6, 1879, "Yesterday's Arrivals"; From Here

Sadly, the hotel caught fire on Christmas in 1961 and was destroyed. I found a blog about the hotel fire that even includes a link to 8mm footage of the fire. If you want to see it, go here and scroll to the link at the end of the 3rd paragraph. The film owner granted permission to that blogger to post the footage, so I don't feel comfortable re-posting it here. It is in color, and shows the firefighters at work. The blog also features comments from Nashville residents who remember the fire when it happened, so if you're interested, just scroll to the bottom of the post.

Bad news for the hotel, but the good news for us is that we know that our coasters are 1961 or earlier. Memorabilia from the hotel is not easy to find, but here are a couple of items that I found online:
Hotel stationery from 1907; ebay
Post card; ebay

*Information obtained from: Wikipedia,, and

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