February 29, 2012

Hybrid Vehicles

Moxie is an acquired taste. First developed as a patent medicine by Dr. Augustin Thompson of Maine (but practicing in Lowell, Mass.) after the Civil War, this bitter product of the gentian root was transformed into a bottled, carbonated beverage in 1880s. The drink's iconic status, however, was more a product of its marketing than its taste. Unlike many "medicines" of the time, Moxie did not contain alcohol and was advertised as beneficial for all ages, especially the temperate.

Early Horsemobile at B.F. Sargent's store in New London.
Subsequent marketing efforts included the horse-drawn Moxie Bottle Wagon of the late 1880s. Around 1905, an early automobile was outfitted with distinctive Moxie lettering. These two concepts were fused into a new hybrid vehicle around 1915 — the Moxie Horsemobile. With its gas and brake pedals extended to the stirrups, and its steering wheel protruding from the horse's withers, the rider/driver was perched some five feet above the roadbed.

The prototype proved dangerously unstable and was soon replaced by another version based on a Dort Motor Car chassis and a light-weight, paper-mache horse, obtained from a defunct tack and harness shop. Over the next couple of decades, new Horsemobiles were constructed from Buicks, LaSalles, and at least one Rolls Royce.

Three Horsemobiles at Kidder's Garage.
Moxie's fleet of Horsemobiles was dispatched to parades and pubic exhibitions throughout New England and as far west as Ohio. Photographs in the town's Archives show that Horsemobiles visited New London on at least two unidentified occasions.

Once a national brand, the cash-strapped Moxie was forced to limit its advertising in the 1930s and lost its market share. Moxie remains the official drink of Maine, but it's no longer distributed beyond the New England states.

You can visit the only remaining original Horsemobile at Clark's Trading Post in Lincoln, NH, and maybe sample a cold Moxie while you're there.