Growing up in Lisbon Falls, Jim Baumer associated his hometown with Moxie, the bitter soft drink in the orange can.

For one weekend each July, he assembled with his kin and community for the Moxie Festival. He remembers the festival’s modest beginning in 1982 as the brainchild of local shop owner and Moxie aficionado Frank Anicetti, who suggested a Moxie-themed event as a worthy replacement for the town’s feeble summer festival.

It has since grown into a major summer attraction, drawing as many as 20,000 people.

Baumer, a workforce trainer, never abandoned his curiosity for Moxie.

“Moxie really intrigued me, mainly because of the festival,” he said. “In doing research, I found that there were not a lot of books about Moxie. There are a few, but I felt there was room to expand on the subject matter and expand on the sense of place associated with Moxie.”

The result of his research is “Moxie: Maine in a Bottle,” which Down East will publish on April 1. The book is a light and fascinating read, “a compendium of all things Moxie,” the publisher notes.

Baumer offers a history of the beverage, an essay about its connection with Maine and Lisbon Falls, and perspective about its cultural presence and status as the official soft drink of Maine. The book includes many reproductions of ads and witty promotional materials that became a hallmark of the company in the years before World War II.

We talked with Baumer by phone last week. 

Q: Let’s start with the Maine-Moxie story. Why is Maine so closely associated with Moxie, when in fact it was not invented here? And why Lisbon Falls?

A: Part of it is that Augustin Thompson, the inventor of Moxie, was from Maine. He was from Union, Maine, born in 1835. That’s part of it. The drink really had its genesis in New England. Thompson went to chiropractic school in Philadelphia, but he was in Lowell (Mass.) working as a chiropractic doctor with an interest in what was called back then nerve foods. It was in that environment that he produced Moxie. 

Q: Was Moxie ever produced in Maine?

A: Nope. All bottling started in Massachusetts. Lowell was the headquarters, and it found its way to Needham. It was always produced in Massachusetts, but it has always had the connotation that it originated in Maine because Thompson was born here and because Maine has always claimed him as its own. 

Q: So why Lisbon Falls?

A: That’s the interesting story. I think the key figure in that is Frank Anicetti, who for all intent and purpose is considered the Moxie Man. He runs a little store on Main Street on (Route) 196, across from the mill. He grew up with Moxie, and like a lot of people Frank’s age, he really loved the drink and always had a passion for it.

Frank is an aficionado, and is always looking for a way to promote Moxie. Lisbon used to have a summer celebration during the early 1980s, Frontier Days. But the Frontier Days theme was getting old and tired.

Frank saw an opportunity to latch onto the second weekend in July and turn it into something connected to Moxie. 1982 was the start of what became the Moxie Festival. Frank had a book signing with Frank Potter, who had written the first two major books on Moxie.

Potter came back in ’93, and then the chamber came forward in ’94. It’s just gotten bigger and bigger since then. I would say it’s safe to say that 20,000 come for the parade. 

Q: Dr. Augustin Thompson was quite a character. He was a soldier, a doctor, an inventor and a businessman. What am I missing?

A: He was an entrepreneurial person, as a lot of people of that era were. He was a self-educated person, studied Latin and Greek, and read voraciously. He certainly was a Renaissance man. He was a devoted teetotaler and very committed to finding a cure to alcoholism. 

Q: What is the enduring impression of the Moxie story?

A: When I think of Moxie, I think of the genius really being Frank Archer, who was the guy — let’s just say, if there wasn’t a Frank Archer, Moxie would be a historical footnote today. He had savvy and the ability to create all the signs and memorabilia associated with Moxie, all those bottle ideas and candy. There was even a Moxie board game.

In our country, people have always loved to collect things and to collect memorabilia. Part of Moxie’s cultural following is centered around the collecting that goes with it. 

Q: Moxie is doing well again?

A: Yes, it is. We’ve all heard stories related to a father or the grandfather of people who grew up with the drink in the 1920s. That was the heyday of the brand. But when Archer died, they lost their way marketing the drink. After 1940, Moxie began to lose out on market share, and became a niche product and faded away.

But it’s back now. Cornucopia Beverages Inc. of Bedford, N.H., bought it, and distribution is as strong again in New England and elsewhere as it’s been in 40 years or so. 

Q: Do you like the taste of Moxie?

A: To me, it has a medicinal taste. Not a bad taste, but a medicinal taste. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes