Little Bits of History

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 31, 2013
 John Pemberton

John Pemberton

August 31, 1900: Charles Candler mixes his syrup with carbonated water for English customers. In 1885 John Pemberton mixed together a concoction he called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, hoping to mirror the success of a similar cocawine made in France. Cocawine is a mixture of wine and cocaine and Vin Mariana was highly successful on the Continent. Pemberton sold his patent medicine by the glass at a soda fountain in Georgia. Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta found a solid customer base for the curative drink which sold for a nickel.

When Georgia enforced Prohibition in the state, the formula was changed. But the beverage still cured many ailments – allegedly. By 1888 there were three versions of the drink. Asa Griggs Candler bought into Pemberton’s company in 1887 and incorporated it as Coca Cola Company in 1888. Pemberton, suffering from addictions, sold the rights to a consortium of four businessmen and his own son began selling the drink with a third slightly altered recipe. A lot of legal and illegal wrangling ended with Candler incorporating a new company, The Coca-Cola Company in 1892. By 1910, all old records were destroyed leaving an even less clear trail.

Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time on March 12, 1894. An outdoor painted advertisement appeared the same year. The sales in England began in the basement restaurant at a Spence’s department store (a silk merchant and general goods store) in London and spread to include Selfridges and the London Coliseum soda fountains. On August 31, 2000 a commemorative plaque was unveiled on the site of the first sales in Great Britain. Audley Harrison revealed the plaque at 76-79 St. Paul’s Churchyard.

The Coca-Cola Company does worldwide business today. They are based out of Atlanta, Georgia and Muhtar Kent is chairman of the company. In 2007 they brought in $28.857 billion in revenue with a net income of $5.981 billion. There were 90,800 employees as of September 2008. They offer over 2,800 beverage products ranging from regular and diet sparkling drinks to 100% fruit juices, fruit juice drinks, and waters. They also market sport and energy drinks, teas and coffees as well as milk and soy-based beverages.

“The truth is that our way of celebrating the Christmas season does spring from myriad cultures and sources, from St. Nicholas to Coca-Cola advertising campaigns.” – Richard Roeper

“Bob Dole admitted he used cocaine when he was in college, but then Coca-Cola changed its formula.” – Bill Maher

“I tried sniffing Coke once, but the ice cubes got stuck in my nose.” – seen on a tee shirt

“The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life’s most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it.” – Lewis Grizzard

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: John Pemberton was born in 1831 in Georgia. He fought in the US Civil War and attained the rank of Colonel. In April 1865, he was wounded in the Battle of Columbus, Georgia. He received a slashing wound across his chest. He survived the injury but like many who were wounded, he became addicted to the morphine used to control the pain. Pemberton was also a pharmacist. He began a search for something that would ease the constant pain but also remove the addiction to morphine. There was a public concern for the number of veterans addicted to either morphine or alcohol as well as many suffering from depression or possibly post-traumatic stress disorder. Many women were also diagnosed with “neurasthenia” which was a nice way to say “high-strung”. Pemberton wanted a medicine to combat all these problems and coca wines seemed a possible answer. The rest, as they say, is history.

Also on this day: Who Was He? – In 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was brutally murdered.
Fairy Tale’s End – In 1997, Princess Diana is killed in a car crash.
Go West – In 1803, Meriwether Lewis began his great Expedition when he left Pittsburgh.

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