It's National Coffee Day. As if you needed any excuse.
For many Americans, the idea of celebrating the dark elixir that charges our weary bones through another hour of work is as silly as glorifying the water used to make it. It'd be like having a day to recognize the air we breathe, or proclaiming Our Daily Bread Day.
Instead, let's think about Gus Comstock, a Minnesota man with a name like a gun and a bulletproof reputation as one of the great coffee drinkers in American history.
This story comes to us in snippet form from the New York Times archives, which today tweeted the Old Grey Lady's long-ago coverage of Comstock's most glorious achievement.
The year was 1927. Comstock, a military veteran living in Fergus Falls, had bounced around in careers, shining shoes and hawking ice cream and soda pop at county fairs.
He was unfulfilled, this man known for his "large appetites." He was also in luck: The gilded era after the Great War and before the market crash was a boom time for eating and drinking contests, celebrations of peace and plentiful bounty.
A year earlier, Comstock had obliterated a standing record (27 cups) for coffee consumption, gulping 62 brews in 10 hours. That mark didn't even last a year, as a 71-cup, under-nine-hour marathon was completed by one H.A. Streety, of Amarillo, Texas. (Just us, or were names way cooler back then?)
This, Comstock could not let stand. So, on the morning of January 11, he sat down at 7:00 a.m. and started drinking. According to one version of the story, Comstock had his sights set on 100 cups of joe. He fell short of that, but easily smashed Streety's tally, thus regaining the world record. Here's the Associated Press wire story that appeared in the Times the following day.
The paper of record carried word of Comstock's feat dead-center at the top of page A1, right below the banner -- and just above a story about a flu epidemic killing hundreds of Europeans.
According to this book account, even Comstock's new total of 85 cups was short for this world. His successor was another man of the Upper Midwest: Frank Truckimowicz, from tiny Ray, North Dakota, who downed 90 cups in about three and a half hours, a score that effectively "finished the conversation."
A Fergus Falls Journal story from 2009 says Comstock, thereafter known as "Guzzling Gus," later moved on to pursuits both more innocent (pounding milk) and adult (beer), though his accomplishments in those fields would never surpass his reputation as a coffee man.
He died at the state veterans home in 1955, his legend forever cemented in the annals of java lore.
We invite you to raise a mug this afternoon to ol' Gus Comstock, still the reigning coffee king of Minnesota -- and, for one short-lived, jittery moment, the world.