May 10, 1797: Maine residents vote 2,785 to 2,412 in a referendum in favor of separation from Massachusetts. The Massachusetts General Court ignores the results, probably because of the extremely low voter turnout.

Antique bottles of Moxie photographed in 2002 Staff Photo by Herb Swanson

Several other referendums, setbacks, delays and even an intervening war will take place before Maine statehood is achieved in 1820.

May 10, 2005: The Maine Legislature designates Moxie as the official soft drink of Maine.

The bitter concoction, first marketed as medicine, sprang to life around 1876 in Lowell, Massachusetts, but its inventor, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born in Union, Maine. He originally called it “Moxie Nerve Foods.”

While the company that produced the drink also cobbled together fanciful fables about how Moxie got its name, Maine’s many lakes and streams identified by the Abenaki word “Moxie” (“dark water”) probably inspired the name of the soft drink – which now is made in New Hampshire.

A Moxie Festival, founded in 1982 by the late Frank Anicetti, is held annually in Lisbon to celebrate Mainers’ passion for the beverage. Even Anicetti, however, known as “Mr. Moxie,” once acknowledged that the bitter soft drink is an acquired taste.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at He can be contacted at:

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