The evolution of the Coca-Cola logo


© 2014 Blaine Martin


The first year after Coca-Cola's introduction

Contrary to common thought, the script Coca-Cola that we are so familiar with wasn't used during the first year of Coca-Cola's existence. Even though  Coca-Cola was first served on May 8th, 1886 and it wasn't until June 16th, 1877 that the first use of the Coca-Cola script logo came into use.


The first known use of the Coca-Cola logo was in typographical serif capital letters.


The label for Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract registered in the U.S. Patent Office on June 28th, 1887 is shown on the left. Above is the first advertisement for Coca-Cola  which appeared in the Atlanta Journal  on May 29th, 1886

 The first newspaper advertisement for Coca-Cola appeared in the Atlanta Journal on May 29th, 1886 containing the words Coca-Cola in capital letters. A little over a year later, John Pemberton applied for a patent with the United States Patent Office on June 6th, 1887 and received the registration on June 28th, 1887. The label he used to apply for the registration also contained the words Coca-Cola in all capital letters. No use of Coca-Cola in script is known during this period.

During this first year of Coca-Cola's introduction to Atlanta's fountains, legend tells us and historical accounts corroborate, that Frank Robinson, the Coca-Cola Company's bookkeeper was busy perfecting the alliterative spencerian script logo. Logic would dictate that if Mr. Robinson had the the script version available during this first year, it most certainly would have been used.

The first known use of Coca-Cola in it's script form in a newspaper advertisement on June 16, 1887.


The first inconsistent versions of the early script logo

Early Coca-Cola logo from coke letterhead

Early Candler letterhead showing use of of the first script version of the logo.

The first version of the script logo appears in Atlanta area newspaper ads dating from 1887. This early logo bore no registration mark since it was not yet registered as a trademark in the patent office. The trademark registration was finally granted on January 31, 1893. At that time the logo (actually many varying but similar versions) had been in use for nearly five years.

This early logo was very crude and lacked the symmetry and evenness of later versions. It differed most from later logos with the use of the tail on the beginning o in Coca. It wasn't applied in a constant manner and soon fell from use — being seen on only a handful of the items we collect today.

1891 Trade Card front showing the early logo without a trademark designation.

The first trademark registration on January 31, 1893


The first registered trademark Coca-Cola script logo


Even though the Coca-Cola script logo had been in use for over five years in various forms, it wasn't until May 14th, 1892 that an application for trademark was filed with the U. S. Patent Office.

Over a year later on January 31, 1893 the trademark registration was granted. From that time on Coca-Cola (nearly always) appeared with the word "trademark" or the words "trade mark" either in the tail of the first C or somewhere very near the logo.

early coke logo from sign

An early 1896-1900 Complimentary Ticket  showing a rather attractive version of the early logo.

A c.1900 backbar syrup bottle showing an unusual version of the registered logo.

Late 1890's metal sign showing the logo with trade mark in the tail of the C.

A box for syrup bottles dating to the 1893-1904 time period.

1898 metal sidewalk sign

1900 metal sign

The second trademark registration on October 31, 1905.


TRADE MARK REGISTERED begins to appear


Even though the trademark was registered in 1905 without any trademark designation. The words "Trade Mark Registered" in the tail of the C had been in standard use by the company since 1903.

A new trademark statute was passed in 1905 requiring companies to re-register their logos.

It is interesting to note that unlike the previous version that had the words "Trade Mark" in the tail, this time the Coca-Cola Company registered the logo without any text in the tail of the C. Exactly why is unknown, but it is known that the company had been using the words "Trade Mark Registered" in the tail of the C since as early as 1903, and they continued using it going forward.

coke logo from coca-cola metal sign

1931 metal flange sign showing "Trademark Registered" in the tail of the C.

coke logo from coca-cola metal sign

Small 1922 hanging sign made for indoor use.

coke loogo from coca-cola postcard

1910 Motor Girl postcard.

coke logo from coca-cola sign

One of Coca-Cola's very first metal outdoor  signs. This one dates from about 1904.

c.1907 glass change receiver.

1930 fiber banner


TRADE MARK REG. U.S. PAT. OFF.  begins to appear


coca-cola logo from round coke sign

1939-1940 thermometer

1934-1938 metal "Bulls Eye" sign

1932 cardboard die-cut featuring the "diminishing logo". The diminishing logo was a design mechanism used on may items throughout the early 1930's.

coke logo from coca-cola metal signage

1931 metal sign

Late 1930's celluloid hanging sign

1931 metal sign

1937 metal sign

c.1930's porcelain door push

A 1920 law required all trademark owners to use the terminology "Registered in the U. S. Patent Office" as the trademark notification with their logos.

Coca-Cola chose to use the abbreviated form "Reg. U. S. Pat. Off." and placed it in the tail of the C—­the same location as the previous notification. Oddly, this change did not take place on Coca-Cola advertising until 1930 — ten years after the law was enacted.

coca-cola logo from coke masonite sign


REG. U.S. PAT. OFF.  appears under logo


In 1941 the trademark notification was moved from the tail of the C and was centered underneath the words "Coca-Cola". Although the mandate was for the notification to read "Reg. U. S. Pat. Off." — the notification can be found with several different variations.

coca-cola logo from coke string holder

1940-1941 "New Betty" metal sign

c.1950 Kay Display menu board

1948 cardboard die-cut

c.1950 thermometer

c.1958 door pull

c.1950 electric wall clock

c.1940's  celluloid hanging sign

1948 glass countertop sign

1959 matchbook


The trademark information is simplified

1954 sidewalk sign

coke logo from coca-cola can

1964 thermometer

1963 can

c.1955 metal sign

c.1963 straw box

c.1960 bottle carrier

1963 metal sign

c.1950's lighted sign

1949-1951 cardboard sign

Beginning in the early 1950's the trademark designation had been simplified to  "Trade-mark ®" and began to be used on some items. It wasn't until about 1962 that this usage became common practice.


The Dynamic Ribbon and Arden Square logo introduction


c.1978 cardboard sign

1973 thrmometer

1970 metal sign

c.1976 clock

In late 1969 Coca-Cola introduced a new branding program replacing the Arciform and Things go better with Coke design devices used during the previous decade. This new program introduced a design vehicle known as the Arden Square.

The Arden Square is essentially a square with the Coca-Cola logo and what is known as the Dynamic Ribbon device. At this time the word "Drink" above Coca-Cola was replaced with "Enjoy".


The registration mark becomes simply ®

About 1991 the words Trade-mark were dropped from the designation and ® was simply placed at the end of the logo.