19th century historical origins
Eagle Drug and Chemical House in Columbus, Georgia
Believed to be the first coupon ever, this ticket for a free glass of Coca-Cola was first distributed in 1888 to help promote the drink. By 1913, the company had redeemed 8.5 million tickets.
This refurbished Coca-Cola advertisement from 1943 is still displayed in Minden
Confederate Colonel John Pemberton, who was wounded in the American Civil War and became addicted to morphine, began a quest to find a substitute for the problematic drug. In 1885 at Pemberton's Eagle Drug and Chemical House, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia, he registered Pemberton's French Wine Coca nerve tonic. Pemberton's tonic may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a French-Corsican coca wine, but his recipe additionally included the African kola nut, the beverage's source of caffeine.
It is also worth noting that a Spanish drink called "Kola Coca" was presented at a contest in Philadelphia in 1885, a year before the official birth of Coca-Cola. The rights for this Spanish drink were bought by Coca-Cola in 1953.
In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, a nonalcoholic version of Pemberton's French Wine Coca. It was marketed as "Coca-Cola: The temperance drink", which appealed to many people as the temperance movement enjoyed wide support during this time. The first sales were at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886, where it initially sold for five cents a glass. Drugstore soda fountains were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health, and Pemberton's new drink was marketed and sold as a patent medicine, Pemberton claiming it a cure for many diseases, including morphine addiction, indigestion, nerve disorders, headaches, and impotence. Pemberton ran the first advertisement for the beverage on May 29 of the same year in the Atlanta Journal.
By 1888, three versions of Coca-Cola – sold by three separate businesses – were on the market. A co-partnership had been formed on January 14, 1888, between Pemberton and four Atlanta businessmen: J.C. Mayfield, A.O. Murphey, C.O. Mullahy, and E.H. Bloodworth. Not codified by any signed document, a verbal statement given by Asa Candler years later asserted under testimony that he had acquired a stake in Pemberton's company as early as 1887. John Pemberton declared that the name "Coca-Cola" belonged to his son, Charley, but the other two manufacturers could continue to use the formula.
Charley Pemberton's record of control over the "Coca-Cola" name was the underlying factor that allowed for him to participate as a major shareholder in the March 1888 Coca-Cola Company incorporation filing made in his father's place. Charley's exclusive control over the "Coca-Cola" name became a continual thorn in Asa Candler's side.
Candler's oldest son, Charles Howard Candler, authored a book in 1950 published by Emory University. In this definitive biography about his father, Candler specifically states: "..., on April 14, 1888, the young druggist Asa Griggs Candler purchased a one-third interest in the formula of an almost completely unknown proprietary elixir known as Coca-Cola."
The deal was actually between John Pemberton's son Charley and Walker, Candler & Co. – with John Pemberton acting as cosigner for his son. For $50 down and $500 in 30 days, Walker, Candler & Co. obtained all of the one-third interest in the Coca-Cola Company that Charley held, all while Charley still held on to the name. After the April 14 deal, on April 17, 1888, one-half of the Walker/Dozier interest shares were acquired by Candler for an additional $750.
In 1892, Candler set out to incorporate a second company; "The Coca-Cola Company" (the current corporation). When Candler had the earliest records of the "Coca-Cola Company" destroyed in 1910, the action was claimed to have been made during a move to new corporation offices around this time.
After Candler had gained a better foothold on Coca-Cola in April 1888, he nevertheless was forced to sell the beverage he produced with the recipe he had under the names "Yum Yum" and "Koke". This was while Charley Pemberton was selling the elixir, although a cruder mixture, under the name "Coca-Cola", all with his father's blessing. After both names failed to catch on for Candler, by the middle of 1888, the Atlanta pharmacist was quite anxious to establish a firmer legal claim to Coca-Cola, and hoped he could force his two competitors, Walker and Dozier, completely out of the business, as well.
John Pemberton died suddenly on August 16, 1888. Asa Candler then decided to move swiftly forward to attain full control of the entire Coca-Cola operation.
Charley Pemberton, an alcoholic and opium addict unnerved Asa Candler more than anyone else. Candler is said to have quickly maneuvered to purchase the exclusive rights to the name "Coca-Cola" from Pemberton's son Charley immediately after he learned of Dr. Pemberton's death. One of several stories states that Candler approached Charley's mother at John Pemberton's funeral and offered her $300 in cash for the title to the name. Charley Pemberton was found on June 23, 1894, unconscious, with a stick of opium by his side. Ten days later, Charley died at Atlanta's Grady Hospital at the age of 40.
In Charles Howard Candler's 1950 book about his father, he stated: "On August 30 , he Asa Candler became sole proprietor of Coca-Cola, a fact which was stated on letterheads, invoice blanks and advertising copy."
With this action on August 30, 1888, Candler's sole control became technically all true. Candler had negotiated with Margaret Dozier and her brother Woolfolk Walker a full payment amounting to $1,000, which all agreed Candler could pay off with a series of notes over a specified time span. By May 1, 1889, Candler was now claiming full ownership of the Coca-Cola beverage, with a total investment outlay by Candler for the drink enterprise over the years amounting to $2,300.
In 1914, Margaret Dozier, as co-owner of the original Coca-Cola Company in 1888, came forward to claim that her signature on the 1888 Coca-Cola Company bill of sale had been forged. Subsequent analysis of other similar transfer documents had also indicated John Pemberton's signature had most likely been forged as well, which some accounts claim was precipitated by his son Charley.
On September 12, 1919, Coca-Cola Co. was purchased by a group of investors for $25 million and reincorporated. The company publicly offered 500,000 shares of the company for $40 a share.
In 1986, The Coca-Cola Company merged with two of their bottling operators (owned by JTL Corporation and BCI Holding Corporation) to form Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (CCE).
In December 1991, Coca-Cola Enterprises merged with the Johnston Coca-Cola Bottling Group, Inc.
Origins of bottling
Bottling plant of Coca-Cola Canada Ltd. January 8, 1941. Montreal
The first bottling of Coca-Cola occurred in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the Biedenharn Candy Company on March 12, 1894. The proprietor of the bottling works was Joseph A. Biedenharn. The original bottles were Hutchinson bottles, very different from the much later hobble-skirt design of 1915 now so familiar.
A few years later two entrepreneurs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, namely Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead, proposed the idea of bottling and were so persuasive that Candler signed a contract giving them control of the procedure for only one dollar. Candler never collected his dollar, but in 1899, Chattanooga became the site of the first Coca-Cola bottling company. Candler remained very content just selling his company's syrup. The loosely termed contract proved to be problematic for The Coca-Cola Company for decades to come. Legal matters were not helped by the decision of the bottlers to subcontract to other companies, effectively becoming parent bottlers. This contract specified that bottles would be sold at 5¢ each and had no fixed duration, leading to the fixed price of Coca-Cola from 1886 to 1959.
The first outdoor wall advertisement that promoted the Coca-Cola drink was painted in 1894 in Cartersville, Georgia. Cola syrup was sold as an over-the-counter dietary supplement for upset stomach. By the time of its 50th anniversary, the soft drink had reached the status of a national icon in the US. In 1935, it was certified kosher by Atlanta Rabbi Tobias Geffen, after the company made minor changes in the sourcing of some ingredients.
Original framed Coca-Cola artist's drawn graphic presented by The Coca-Cola Company on July 12, 1944 to Charles Howard Candler on the occasion of Coca-Cola's "1 Billionth Gallon of Coca-Cola Syrup."
Claimed to be the first installation anywhere of the 1948 model "Boat Motor" styled Coca-Cola soda dispenser, Fleeman's Pharmacy, Atlanta, Georgia. The "Boat Motor" soda dispenser was introduced in the late 1930s and manufactured until the late 1950s. Photograph circa 1948.
The longest running commercial Coca-Cola soda fountain anywhere was Atlanta's Fleeman's Pharmacy, which first opened its doors in 1914. Jack Fleeman took over the pharmacy from his father and ran it until 1995; closing it after 81 years. On July 12, 1944, the one-billionth gallon of Coca-Cola syrup was manufactured by The Coca-Cola Company. Cans of Coke first appeared in 1955.
On April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola, amid much publicity, attempted to change the formula of the drink with "New Coke". Follow-up taste tests revealed most consumers preferred the taste of New Coke to both Coke and Pepsi but Coca-Cola management was unprepared for the public's nostalgia for the old drink, leading to a backlash. The company gave in to protests and returned to the old formula under the name Coca-Cola Classic, on July 10, 1985.
On July 5, 2005, it was revealed that Coca-Cola would resume operations in Iraq for the first time since the Arab League boycotted the company in 1968.
In April 2007, in Canada, the name "Coca-Cola Classic" was changed back to "Coca-Cola". The word "Classic" was removed because "New Coke" was no longer in production, eliminating the need to differentiate between the two. The formula remained unchanged. In January 2009, Coca-Cola stopped printing the word "Classic" on the labels of 16-US-fluid-ounce (470 ml) bottles sold in parts of the southeastern United States. The change is part of a larger strategy to rejuvenate the product's image. The word "Classic" was removed from all Coca-Cola products by 2011.
In November 2009, due to a dispute over wholesale prices of Coca-Cola products, Costco stopped restocking its shelves with Coke and Diet Coke for two months; a separate pouring rights deal in 2013 saw Coke products removed from Costco food courts in favor of Pepsi. Some Costco locations (such as the ones in Tucson, Arizona) additionally sell imported Coca-Cola from Mexico with cane sugar instead of corn syrup from separate distributors. Coca-Cola introduced the 7.5-ounce mini-can in 2009, and on September 22, 2011, the company announced price reductions, asking retailers to sell eight-packs for $2.99. That same day, Coca-Cola announced the 12.5-ounce bottle, to sell for 89 cents. A 16-ounce bottle has sold well at 99 cents since being re-introduced, but the price was going up to $1.19.
In 2012, Coca-Cola resumed business in Myanmar after 60 years of absence due to U.S.-imposed investment sanctions against the country. Coca-Cola's bottling plant will be located in Yangon and is part of the company's five-year plan and $200 million investment in Myanmar. Coca-Cola with its partners is to invest US$5 billion in its operations in India by 2020. In 2013, it was announced that Coca-Cola Life would be introduced in Argentina and other parts of the world that would contain stevia and sugar. However, the drink was discontinued in Britain on June 2017.