Old Coca-Cola Bottling Plants as they appear today.

Palatka, FL   ©2008 Earl C. LeatherberryLynchburg, VA   ©2008 Earl C. LeatherberryGreenville, SC    ©2008 Mike BurtonAlexandria, VA    ©2008 Joseph A
Atlantic, IA   ©2009 Earl C. LeatherberryLexington, MS    ©2009 Joseph AParkersburg, WV   ©2009 Earl C. LeatherberrySeattle, WA    ©2009 Joe Mabel
Atlantic, IA   ©2009 Earl C. LeatherberryCharlotte, NC    ©2009 LumierflBloomington, IN    ©2009 Middle Way HouseDurham, NC   ©2009 Earl C. Leatherberry
Durham, NC   ©2009 Earl C. LeatherberryDurham, NC   ©2009 Earl C. LeatherberryHampton, SC   ©2009 Earl C. LeatherberryHampton, SC    ©2010 Gene Bowker
Chicago, IL    ©2010 ChicagoGeekTrenton, FL    ©2010 EbyabeTrenton, FL    ©2010 EbyabeBloomington, IN    ©2010 Nyttend
Swainsboro, GA    ©2010 mystuartFort Lauderdale, FL    ©2010 EbyabeLa Grange, GA   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberryLa Grange, GA   ©2010 Earl C. Leatherberry
Newnan, GA   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberryForest City, NC   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberryHenderson, NC   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberryHenderson, NC   ©2010 Earl C. Leatherberry
Henderson, NC   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberryShelby, NC   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberrySpartanburg, SC   ©2010 Earl C. LeatherberryHampton, SC   ©2011 Earl C. Leatherberry
Placerville, CA   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryIndianapolis, IN   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryIndianapolis, IN   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryIndianapolis, IN   ©2011 Earl C. Leatherberry
Indianapolis, IN   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryNew Castle, IN    ©2011 Jimmy EmersonLouisville, KY   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryLouisville, KY   ©2011 Earl C. Leatherberry
New Albany MS    ©2011 Matthew NWashington, NC   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryWashington, NC   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryBlackstone, VA   ©2011 Earl C. Leatherberry
Blackstone, VA   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberrySouth Hill, VA   ©2011 Earl C. LeatherberryIsom, KY    ©2012 AaronShelbyville, KY   ©2012 Earl C. Leatherberry
Shelbyville, KY   ©2012 Earl C. LeatherberryChicago, IL    ©2011 Beyond My KenTell City, IN    ©2007 MartinBloomington, IL    ©2007 McMurray
Bloomington, IN    ©2010 NyttendBloomington, IN    ©2010 NyttendBloomington, IN    ©2010 NyttendBluefield, WV    ©2010 Joseph Lee   www.tazewell-orange.com
Carthage, MS  ©2012 Mississippi Main Street AssociationDurham, NC    ©2008 Garril KueberElmira, NY    ©2008 LvklockElmira, NY    ©2008 Lvklock
Hendersonville, NC    ©2010 photographer unknownWorcester, MA    ©2008 improbcatWorcester, MA    ©2008 improbcatWorcester, MA    ©2008 improbcat
Worcester, MA    ©2008 improbcatWorcester, MA    ©2008 improbcatWorcester, MA    ©2008 improbcatVidalia, GA    ©2006 Jimmy Emerson
Shelbyville, KY    ©2009 Jimmy WayneWinchester, VA    ©2012 Joel BradshawLos Angeles, CA    ©2005 Carol HighsmithVicksburg, MS    ©2006 Natalie Maynor
Norton, WV    ©2010 Joseph Lee   www.tazewell-orange.comOcala, FL    ©2007 EbyabePaducah, KY    © 2009 Debra Jane SeltzerPaducah, KY    ©2009 Debra Jane Seltzer
Paducah, KY    ©2009 Debra Jane SeltzerQuincy, IL    ©2010 SmallbonesRomney, WV    ©2010 Justin A. WilcoxRomney, WV    ©2010 Justin A. Wilcox
Sacramento, CA    ©2007 Ronbo76Tell City, IN    ©2007 Holly HigginsVansant, WV    ©2010 Joseph Lee   www.tazewell-orange.comVicksburg, MS    ©2008 Infrogmation

 

Gone are the days when nearly every small town had their name on the bottom of a Coke bottle and the local Coca-Cola Bottling Plant was a proud family owned business.

 

The bottling of Coca-Cola began in 1899, when Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead of Chattanooga, Tennessee, secured the exclusive rights to bottle and sell Coca-Cola in in nearly the entire country. They soon joined with John T. Lupton, and began to develop what would become the  independent bottling system.

 

Lacking the money needed to build a nationwide system, they sought local entrepreneurs with capital and granted them perpetual contracts to bottle and sell Coca-Cola within their exclusive territories.

 

By 1909, nearly 400 crude Coca-Cola bottling plants were operating, most of them family-owned businesses. Territories were generally small – determined by the distance a person could ride on horseback and return in the same day.  This equated to roughly 30 miles from the center of town.

 

As transportation progressed, so did the bottling franchises. Over 1200 were in operation by 1925. Most of them were still locally owned and operated and they were quickly outgrowing their original buildings.

 

By the mid 1930's many plants had outgrown their primitive early quarters and were building proud new buildings that showcased the latest architecture. The bottling plant was a source of civic pride, and a symbol of local business leadership.

 

The bottling business thrived through the war years, and remained an icon on the local landscape until the late 1960's. At that time many long-time bottlers were feeling the pressure caused by evolving methods of distribution and changing customer needs.

 

The fact was that the small local bottler was simply no longer needed. Transportation and ease of distribution had made the multiple small town plants obsolete. The soon consolidated or became distributors, abandoning their plant buildings in the center of town.

 

By the 80's they were either sitting empty and slowly deteriorating or trying to adapt to current needs and house new business ventures. This sad reality is almost unchanged today. These architectural snapshots of our recent past are being lost one by one as the years progress.

 

Here – thanks to talented photographers with an eye towards preserving Roadside Americana – we have created a photo archive to share as many of these local icons as we can .  .  . before it is too late to save them.

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This is a private collector's website that explores the unique history and memorabilia of the Coca-Cola Company. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola and its affiliated logos are registered trademarks of the Coca-Cola Company.

 

EarlyCoke.com's mission is to provide information useful to the Coca-Cola collecting community and to provide an understanding of the history of the Coca-Cola Company. We do not recommend whether to but or sell particular Coca-Cola items, nor are we an auctioneer. Collectors should conduct their own independent research before making a decision to purchase or sell any antiques or collectibles. Under no circumstances will EarlyCoke.com be liable for any claims or losses related to the purchasing or selling of antiques or collectibles.