Does Starbucks have any relation to the Starbuck family?

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While romping about Nantucket's fields and beaches, I stumbled into a little history. Nantucket was originally inhabited by the Wampanoag tribe until the English settled down in the mid 1600s. Among the founding families of Nantucket were the Macy's of Macy's, the Folgers of Folgers Coffee, and the Starbuck's of "¦Starbucks? But the Starbuck's company factsheet  says it was named after the first mate in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. So, who's telling the truth? Well, perhaps both.

Starbucks was founded by three academics who had no relation to a Starbuck. As it happens, Moby Dick was one of the founder's favorite book, so he proposed the name Pequod after Captain Ahab's ship. Luckily for coffee-lovin' Americans, that name was quickly vetoed. Instead, the three decided to search for a name with local Seattle flavor and proposed Starbo, the name of an old mining camp near Mt. Rainier. Then, realizing the similarity between Starbo and Starbuck, the first-mate of the Pequod, the group compromised on Starbucks.

What the founders may not have known, however, is that Melville drew his inspiration from the traditions and stories of the whalers on Nantucket Island. In fact, Moby Dick itself was inspired by the story of the Essex, a whaling boat that left Nantucket in 1819 and was struck and sunk by a sperm whale. Surely, Melville knew the Starbuck family name, prominent on Nantucket, and from it, drew inspiration for his character, a Quaker from Nantucket.
So, that's the full scoop. Though the Starbuck family of Nantucket is not The Starbucks' Family, without them you might have been obsessing over your next Pequod's fix.

Be sure to check out more of what Diana learned today here.

August 19, 2008 - 8:27am
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