Coca-Cola calls Atlanta, Georgia their home. Coke was created by a pharmacist, John Pemberton, originally as a patent medicine. Colonel John Pemberton was wounded in the Civil War, became addicted to morphine, and began a quest to find a substitute to the dangerous opiate. The prototype Coca-Cola recipe was formulated at Pemberton’s Eagle Drug and Chemical House, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia, originally as a coca wine. He may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European coca wine.
In 1885, Pemberton registered his French Wine Coca nerve tonic. In 1886, when Atlanta’s Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, a nonalcoholic version of French Wine Coca. The first sales were at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. It initially sold for five cents a glass (a price that would hold firm until the 1950’s) at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health. Pemberton claimed Coca-Cola cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence, running the first ad for the beverage on May 29 of the same year in the Atlanta Journal.
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 Pemberton (John’s son) held, while Charley 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. Charley Pemberton, an alcoholic, was the one obstacle who 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 right after Dr. Pemberton’s death. One of several stories was that Candler bought the title to the name from Charley’s mother for $300; approaching her at Dr. Pemberton’s funeral. By May 1, 1889, Candler claimed 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.
When launched, Coca-Cola’s two key ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the “K” in Kola was replaced with a “C” for marketing purposes). After 1904, instead of using fresh leaves, Coca-Cola started using “spent” leaves – the leftovers of the cocaine-extraction process with trace levels of cocaine. Coca-Cola now uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract prepared at a Stepan Company plant (the only company in the US allowed to legally import coca plants) in Maywood, New Jersey.
Today, the Coca-Cola company sells their products in over 200 countries world-wide and, until recently, was the most valuable and highly recognized brand name in the entire world, worth an estimated $79.2 billion dollars (they were surpassed in 2013 by Apple and Google.) Consumers guzzle more than 1.8 billion Coca-Cola products each day!!!
Since the product is such a valuable commodity, the exact formula of Coca-Cola’s natural flavorings (but not its other ingredients, which are listed on the side of the bottle or can) is an extremely and closely guarded trade secret. The original copy of the formula was held in SunTrust Bank’s main vault in Atlanta for 86 years. Its predecessor, the Trust Company, was the underwriter for the Coca-Cola Company’s initial public offering in 1919. On December 8, 2011, the original secret formula was moved from the vault at SunTrust Banks to a new vault containing the formula which will be on display for visitors to its World of Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta, where tourists can see the outside of the vault, but are cautioned not to put their arms over the barrier or security alarms will sound.
A popular myth states that only two executives have access to the formula, with each executive having only half the formula. The truth is that while Coca-Cola does have a rule restricting access to only two executives, each knows the entire formula and others, in addition to the prescribed duo, have known the formulation process.
Today’s photo is of the original soda fountain (now in the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, GA) where John Pemberton first sold his product. The bronze statue is of him offering you a Coke!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to his wife, Varina, describing the desperate situating facing the Confederates.
“Panic has seized the country,” he wrote to his wife in Georgia. Davis was in Charlotte,North Carolina, on his flight away from Yankee troops. It was three weeks since Davis had fled the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, as Union troops were overrunning the trenches nearby. Davis and his government headed west to Danville, Virginia, in hopes of reestablishing offices there. When Confederate General Robert E. Lee was forced to surrender his army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, Davis and his officials traveled south in hopes of connecting with the last major Confederate army, the force of General Joseph Johnston. Johnston, then in North Carolina, was himself in dire straits, as General William T. Sherman’s massive force was bearing down.
Davis continued to his wife, “The issue is one which it is very painful for me to meet. On one hand is the long night of oppression which will follow the return of our people to the ‘Union’; on the other, the suffering of the women and children, and carnage among the few brave patriots who would still oppose the invader.” The Davis’ were reunited a few days later as the president continued to flee and continue the fight. Two weeks later, Union troops finally captured the Confederate president in northern Georgia. Davis was charged with treason, but never tried. In 1889, he died at age 81.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The world’s most unusual shark, the megamouth (Megachasma pelagios), wasn’t discovered until 1976. Its mouth can reach up to three feet across, while the rest of the body is about 16 feet long. Only 14 megamouths have ever been seen.