Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Last month, I wrote about tea. As I researched for that blog article, I ran into information about an unusual sort of Texas conflict. A war over coffee--
Coffee was so important to soldiers and frontiersmen
that some guns had coffee mills built into the stock.

Pioneers and frontiersmen depended on coffee. They craved the beverage and drank it at every meal. Julie Bier, one of the first pioneers to cross Death Valley, is quoted as saying, "Our coffee was a wonderful help and had that given out, I know we should have died."  (https://truewestmagazine.com/cowboy-coffee/) This was before our modern roasted and ground coffee that had a long shelf life.

Chuck Wagon Buffet

Cowboys also relied on coffee, preferring it barefooted (black). It was a standard item served from by chuck wagon, kept available constantly for the wrangles. One chuck wagon cook wrote that he used 175 pounds of beans every month. Ground beans were added to the previous pot's grounds until the pot. Something that was repeated until the pot couldn't hold anymore. 

At this time, the roasted coffee beans weren't available. The beans were sold green and then toasted in a skillet. One burned bean ruined the entire batch. But a new invention made possible this  battle to be the cowboy's favorite brand of the brew . A way to roast the beans and turn them during the process was invented. Then a man named John Arbuckle patented a recipe to coat the beans so they had a longer shelf life. (He used moss as one of the ingredients, believe it or not!)

In Texas, Arbuckles Ariosa coffee was known as the coffee that tamed the west. Coupons attached to each package were saved so that housewives could earn free items. (Twenty coupons earned a free apron.) Texans were devoted to their Arbuckles.

A coffee maker in San Francisco by the name of Folgers decided to win the hearts of Texans away from the Ariosa coffee. Folgers sent Frank Atha to Texas to set up an outlet there. Folgers was a much more expensive coffee than Arbuckles and Atha focused on that in his advertising campaign. Folgers' expensive Golden Gate Coffee was the one sold in Texas. Atha would travel around Texas in a wagon, giving away free samples to housewives. He limited the number of grocers who could carry the brand also, making it seem like a harder to buy item. That in itself made the popular Arbuckles seem more common and less desirable.

Atha did one more thing. He tried to convince Texans that Arbuckles was all about gimmicks. Folgers Coffee in Texas came with a slogan--No prize--no coupons--no crockery. All that came with Folgers was satisfaction.

So did it work? Folgers is the leading brand of ground coffee in the United states. Even so, to this day many older cowboys still think of Arbuckle's Ariosa blend as the original cowboy coffee. (https://www.arbucklecoffee.com/pages/history)  Folgers has won over everyone but the cowboys it seems.



  1. Great post, Marisa! I didn't realize Folgers was that old. I don't drink coffee, but think most people do. I still think of Arbuckles as the coffee brand to use in our books.