Arbuckles: The Coffee That Won The West

Margaret Brownleymargaretbrownley-150x150



If you depend on a morning cup of coffee to get the old blood flowing, you can thank a bunch of frolicking goats.  According to legend, coffee was discovered more than a thousand years ago by a sleepy-eyed goat herder who noticed that a certain berry gave his goats insomnia. After making himself a berry brew–and spending the night dancing with goats–he named the concoction Kahwa, the Arab name for wine.

Though coffee became the drink of choice for rebels after the Boston Tea party, its appeal was limited.  Sold green, the chore of roasting beans baffled housewives and chuck wagon cooks alike.  According to one old timer, beans had to be clean-picked, placed single layer in a roasting pan and stirred constantly.  One burned bean would ruin the whole batch.  Once the beans were roasted, they quickly lost flavor and aroma.  The short shelf-life meant that roasted beans could be sold only in big cities. goat-picture

John Arbuckle, a Philadelphia grocer, had an idea.  Why not coat the roasted beans with something to keep them from deteriorating?  He bought a roaster and got to work. He tried coating roasted beans with a glaze consisting of Irish moss, gelatin, isinglass, white sugar and eggs and it worked.  Eventually, this glaze was simplified to only white sugar and eggs.  This coating allowed him to ship roasted beans all over the country.

Not only did John Arbuckle solve the roasted bean problem, he pretty much invented the whole concept of marketing.    He was the first to use premiums to encourage the sale of coffee.  A peppermint candy was included in each one pound bag.  “Who wants the peppermint?” was a familiar cry around chuck wagons.  This call to grind the coffee beans got a rash of volunteers.  No rough and tumble cowboy worth his salt would turn down peppermint candy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

arbuckle_logoNever one to rest on his laurels, Arbuckle next came up with a voucher plan. He printed a coupon bearing his signature on each package. A given number of coupons would earn the bearer one of a hundred items available in the Arbuckles’ catalog– the wish book of its day.  Items included everything from a toothbrush to a double-action revolver.  A young man could even order a golden wedding ring for his lady love.  Claiming to mail out 80,000 rings a year, Arbuckles became known at the biggest distributor of rings in the world.

Not only was the coffee a life saver to those early westerners, so was the packaging. Coffee was shipped in sturdy Maine fir crates, 100 one-pound bags to the lot.  The discussioncrates were used to make furniture, coffins and cradles.  The Navajo Indians even used the wood to make hogans, and the trademark flying angel that emblazoned each package of coffee adorned many a western Christmas tree. 

The next time you brew a pot of coffee, just think:  all this happened because a bunch of caffeinated animals got one man’s goat.    


Leave a comment and I’ll send one of you a pound of—what else?—Arbuckles coffee.  Yep, there’s a company in Arizona that still makes it.  If coffee’s not your cup of tea, there’s nothing to be done but send you peppermint candy instead.


Margaret’s book in bookstores now.



 She’s an outlaw; he’s a preacher. 

Both are in need of a miracle.


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42 thoughts on “Arbuckles: The Coffee That Won The West”

  1. Good morning, Margaret! This was the perfect post to read while my morning coffee brews. Mr. Arbuckle must have been quite a businessman. I’ll think of him now when I grind beans every morning.

  2. What a fascinating story about coffee. Frankly I don’t think I would have lasted long in the old days when you had to go to so much trouble to make something like coffee. My hat is off to all the women that came before and put up with such hardships. For me, I like my coffee maker and microwave.

  3. Margaret,

    I loved reading this post! A fascinating little history about something America stays awake on! Thank you for the interesting post! And now back to my mug of….you guessed it….COFFEE!!!


  4. Margaret,
    Awesome story about coffee!! I LOVE coffee!!! Arbuckle coffee would be a new one on me! There’s nothing like a good cup o’ joe! =) Speaking of that….it’s calling my name this morning! Gotta run! =)


    P.S. I have a copy of your book, A Lady Like Sarah sitting on top of my TBR pile of books…can’t wait to read it!!

  5. Great post Margaret, I never dream that my morning cup of coffee was discovered by goats. There is nothing like that wonderful cup when you first get up. I do drink coffee most mornings. Love the cover of A Lady Like Sarah! Nothing like a good western romance either, they are my favorite.

  6. Hi Margaret, I just sat down with a big thermal mug of Kona Roast. It’s my husband’s favorite. I’m more traditional. I like Columbian. Gotta have my morning coffee!

  7. Margaret, what a terrific post. I’d heard about the candy cane, but sure didn’t know about the coating on the bean. How interesting. Thanks for sharing your information on a great subject. Now I’ll go appreciate the cup of coffee I’m fixin’ to fix for myself and thank my lucky stars the beans came roasted! Thanks for sharing.

  8. What an interesting story! Who would’ve thought? What an amazing brand of coffee to have withstood the test of time. It must be really good to have lasted throughout the years! 🙂

  9. What a fun post, Margaret. I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, but I just can’t imagine a rugged cowboy by a campfire without a cup of the brew in his hand. Just seems right, somehow.

    And how fun to imaine those hardened men saving up their vouchers for a wedding ring. No wonder they drank so much of the stuff!

  10. Karen,

    It is fun to imagine cowboys saving up vouchers for a wedding ring. Anyone remember Blue Chip stamps? I think they stopped issuing them in the 60s or 70s. Supposedly even brothels and mortuaries gave them out. I don’t think you could redeem them for wedding rings but coffee pots were a popular item.

  11. Very interesting. I’m having my 2nd cup of the morning right now. Peppermint candy would go well with it though. 🙂 I can’t read this book.

  12. What an interesting history on coffee! A goat, huh? Well, don’t that beat all. I loved reading about Justin’s poor skills at brewing coffee along the trail. I’m not a coffee fan, but used to consume way too much. I enjoyed learning about Arbuckle coffee and the peppermint. I remember buying laundry detergent with towels inside. Arbuckle must have originated the marketing idea of free giveways with purchase.

  13. A very interesting post… once again learning something new! I am not one who drinks coffee, but everyone else in my family loves the stuff! 😀

  14. Margaret, I did not know this. Thanks for the interesting facts on coffee. I’m discovering that a great many things we take for granted now came about entirely by accident. I don’t know what cowboys would have done without coffee.

    Loved the video! I take it those two “actors” are your grandchildren. Too cute. And it’s really unique and different. Bet it sells lots of books. I’ve got to try to find a copy of it. Looks great.

  15. I enjoyed your delightful background about Arbuckle. What an inventive businessman who was such a success. My coffee tastes better.

  16. I always learn something at this blog!!! Thank you Mr. Goat lol. I just love coffee. I have my own grinder and am always trying different kinds of beans. I start and finish my day with a fresh ground black cup of coffee. It helps keep me alert and I hear all kinds of healthy things about it – antioxidants for one. And how clever about the marketing. I can remember glasses and towels being put in soap detergent boxes lol.

  17. What a wonderful post to wake up to and have my first mug of coffee. Interesting and filled with so much information and fun. Thanks for this story.

  18. Wow, that I didn’t know! I love the smell of a freshly brewed cup–didn’t know I had goats to thank for that 😉 Thanks for the great post, Margaret! And congrats on A Lady Like Sarah–what a lovely cover!

  19. Fascinating facts here, Margaret. I think I’ve mentioned Arbuckles in every thing I write but these tidbits of fact are great! I had no idea about the wedding rings. Thank you! oxoxoxox

  20. Margaret,A girl after my own heart,COFFEE! I didnt start drinking it until about 20 yrs ago at age 34,an now cant get enought,that an a good book of course!

  21. Thanks all for posting. And yes, Linda, those little monkeys in the video are my grandkiddies. No one can sell books better than a couple of cute kids. Does putting them in my book trailer qualify me as brilliant or shameless?

    Time for more coffee.

  22. Great story! I prefer tea myself. Which can be a a bit of a problem here in Finland, because most people seem to drink coffee. But, funnily enough, all my friends drink tea.

  23. Thanks for the great information about most everyone’s favorite morning brew! I’m not a
    coffee drinker myself, but it’s interesting
    to know how it all began.

    Thanks for visiting with us in the Junction today!

    Pat Cochran

  24. Wonderful post. There is nothing better than grinding a few beans fresh for a cup of tasty coffee. I had known about Arbuckle’s coffee but did not know about the goat! Such fun.

  25. congrats on A Lady Like Sarah–what a lovely cover!
    would be pleased to win so I could try this. I do drink coffee more than tea. Thanks for sharing today.

  26. Such a great post! To learn so much about my favorite beverage that I didn’t know….thank you for posting.

  27. Margaret,
    What an interesting and fun post. Except for the information on roasting the beans, it was all new to me. Oh for the times when everything could be and was used. Nothing was wasted and there was no shame in that.
    Good luck with the books release. It sounds good.

  28. What a great post! I enjoyed reading and learning about John Arbuckle. I’m don’t drink coffee much but wouldn’t mind trying it.

  29. Interesting information about coffee. I have been a coffee drinker for a long time. And for me, the Starbuck’s varieties ruin it. Plain dark roast coffee is a picker-upper for me.
    The book sounds really good too. I have added it to my TBR list.

  30. Great to read all about Arbuckles coffee- I sell some to Old West Reinacters here in Minnesota and a few of my collectio of Arbuckles coffee and sugar crates are being sold – Gittin older and need the room time for some more folks to injoy them

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