He claimed to be the champion of conspicuous coffee consumption

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 18, 2004

By Ed Shannon,

It’s too bad the Guinness record keepers weren’t around 74 years ago to check on the claims being made by Alfred A. Baker of New York City. According to the June 16, 1930, issue of the Tribune, he would be coming to Albert Lea to try and beat his self-proclaimed record of drinking 95 cups of coffee in one hour.

The man who said he had the world’s record for coffee consumption was scheduled to be at Wacholz Hardware, 118 S. Broadway Ave., from 4 to 5 p.m. on June 18, 1930, to get his caffeine kicks and give a short lecture on &uot;pure foods.&uot; Baker would be doing his drinking demonstration or whatever in the store’s front display window.

Email newsletter signup

His coffee drinking would involve consuming about two cups a minute, and very logically, several quick bathroom breaks. There was no indication in the Tribune article as to the sizes of cups he used for the brewed coffee. They could have been the size used for a child’s teacup.

The coffee to be used for the Albert Lea demonstration, by the way, would be the Chocolate Cream brand which was roasted and ground at the Western Grocer building on East Pearl Street.

Baker had been on his caffeine crusade since 1926. On Feb. 21, 1926, he drank 157 cups of coffee in six hours during an appearance in Los Angeles. He beat this record at Milwaukee on Jan. 6, 1928, with the drinking of 280 cups of coffee in 4 1/2 hours. Then, on Oct. 12, 1929, Baker drank 25 cups of coffee in three minutes for what he called his &uot;sprint&uot; record.

The Tribune article said this champion drinker had consumed 92,840 cups of coffee during his four-year career.

Baker was also what we used to call a &uot;chow hound.&uot; The Tribune cited these as his &uot;official accomplishments&uot; for consuming food and beverages: &uot;Eating 10 quarts of ice cream in 2 1/2 hours, drinking five gallons of water in 1 1/2 hours, drinking 150 bottles of near beer in 2 1/2 hours, and disposing of 500 feet of spaghetti in a given time.&uot;

The Tribune article said:

&uot;Mr. Baker challenges anyone desirous of contesting his ability against him, cup for cup. In his years of competition Mr. Baker has met and defeated 115 opponents, his nearest competitor drinking only 150 cups in four hours. He stipulated, however, that anyone desiring to compete with him should first of all obtain a certificate of fitness for the competition from a mutually chosen physician. Mr. Baker’s exhibition is endorsed by the National Coffee Roasters’ Association as well as food research institutes throughout the country.

&uot;His appearance here Wednesday has been brought about by the management of the Western Grocer Company through the membership of their manufacturing department in the National Coffee Roasters’ Association. Mr. Baker’s feats are endorsed by the National Coffee Roasters’ Association because of their educational value when proving the fallacy of the widespread propaganda and belief that coffee is harmful in its effect, said propaganda being unfair, unwarranted and misrepresented.&uot;

Did Baker ever beat his record of consuming 95 cups of coffee in one hour during his appearance in Albert Lea? The answer has to be no. In fact, I was unable to find any news item in either the Tribune or the Freeborn County Standard weekly newspaper based on his reported visit to Albert Lea 74 years ago.

I checked the Guinness World Records book for 2002 to see what they had for championship beverage consumption. The answer is nothing. In fact, about the only greedy gobbling records listed were 25 hot dogs with buns eaten in 12 minutes by a Japanese man in the U.S. during 2000, and 64 oysters (likely raw) consumed in three minutes by a man in London.

And here’s my honest reaction to any drinking or eating contest. It’s just stupid, period.

Feature Writer Ed Shannon’s columns appear on Fridays.