a history of coca-cola

the decade of the 1880's

1870 – Pemberton moves to Atlanta, a town of about 21,000 people, with his wife and son Charles. By most accounts he is a popular and respected member of the community. Soon he begins concocting a steady stream of proprietary medicines such as Indian Hair Dye, Gingerine, Triplex Liver Pills, Extract of Stillingia, and Globe Flower Cough Syrup. Unfortunately, he is very adept at borrowing money from associates and never paying it back. He is also known for selling the rights for his medicines to several parties at the same time and not transferring the rights.

1873 – Asa Candler arrives in Atlanta and begins work for pharmacist George Howard. Candler eventually marries Mr. Howard's daughter and in 1886 buys out the business renaming it Asa G. Candler & Company.

1884 – Pemberton begins sales of his new  "French Wine of Coca" at 59 South Broad Street. It is dispensed in tall clear English-style flint bottles for the price of one dollar.

1885 – Pemberton moves his laboratory to a two-story red brick rental house at 107 Marietta Street, and manufactures French Wine of Coca in the back room and basement of the home. He bottles it under a coal shed in the backyard.

​Frank Robinson, an accountant by trade, arrives in Atlanta hoping to start an advertising business. Soon Mr. Robinson is in the basement at 107 Marietta helping Doc Pemberton brew his concoctions and encouraging the old doctor to experiment with a new product.

1886 – In April and May customers sample various modifications of an entirely new five cent drink at Venable's Fountain. The fountain is on the ground floor of Jacobs Pharmacy at 2 Peachtree Street. Venable's Fountain is one of only five soda fountains in Atlanta.

​In the fall, Robinson carefully draws the script Coca-Cola lettering, creating what would become the most recognized logo in the world.

1887 – Pemberton falls ill and gives up on the new drink (it sold only 25 gallons that first year). Robinson sticks with it, and in the spring of 1887 he passes out free sample tickets in Atlanta, and mails them to people's homes.

That same year he oversees the production of 500 street car signs, 1600 posters, 45 tin signs and numerous oil cloth banners.

​June 6 –  Pemberton registers Coca-Cola Syrup and Extract with the patent office, leaving out any mention of Robinson.

July 8 – Pemberton again leaves out Robinson and personally sells the controlling 2/3 interest in Coca-Cola to George Lowdnes and Willis Venable for $1200. Soon all the assets of Coca-Cola would be moved to the basement of Jacob's Pharmacy.

​Asa Candler gives the down-on-his-luck Robinson a job as a part-time bookkeeper.

​Dec. 14 – Woolfolk Walker buys Lowdes and Venable's 2/3 of Coca-Cola and moves everything back to 107 Marietta and the Pemberton Chemical Company where it started.

1888 – Robinson repeatedly tries to convince Candler to buy Coca-Cola and manufacture it but Candler has other interests. Finally he relents after trying Coca-Cola for his chronic headaches. Soon Candler buys out Pemberton's 1/3 then buys 1/2 of the remaining 2/3 from Walker. Now having controlling interest,  Candler puts Robinson in charge of Coca-Cola.

​Aug. 16 – Pemberton dies due to stomach ailments that plagued him most of his life. He was fifty-seven. After the funeral Candler has Samual Dobbs to take a wagon to pick up the assets of Coca-Cola from the Pemberton Chemical Company. The assets are deposited at the office of Asa. G. Candler & Company at 47 Peachtree Street.

​Robinson is put in charge of making Candler's proprietary medicines, and soon the two men began to refine the taste and stability of the formula. Ironically the ingredients in the name of the drink – coca extract and the Kola extract – were both reduced to very small amounts. Coca because of a slowly growing concern over addiction and Kola because of its bitter taste.

​Candler buys the remaining 1/3 interest from Woolfolk Walker and becomes the sole owner of the beverage.

1889 – A small May 1st advertisement in the Atlanta Journal declares Asa G. Candler & Company to be sole proprietors of Coca-Cola.

  • French Wine Coca , believed by many  to be a precursor to Coca-Cola, was Introduced to Atlanta in 1884 by  Dr. Pemberton,  French Wine Coca  proceeded the first sale of Coca-Cola by nearly two years.  These small cards were handed out on the streets of Atlanta through the late 1880's. The cards offered patrons a free drink of the medicinal   beverage.  This particular card came to us from the daughter of the actual person who was handed the card on the streets of Atlanta over a century earlier.

  • Born January 8, 1831 in Knoxville, Georgia, John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist by trade who liked to dabble with proprietary medicines, created the formula Coca-Cola in 1886.  He would soon die in poverty before seeing the success of the drink he created.

  • Asa Griggs Candler was born December 30, 1851 in Villa Rica, Georgia.  Through a flurry of transactions after Pemberton's death, Mr. Candler became sole owner of Coca-Cola in 1888.  Under his strict stewardship the Company would flourish.

  • Dr. Pemberton sold his new Wine Coca elixir in English-style clear flint glass bottles. They sold for one dollar per bottle (similar in price to other proprietary medicines of the time). This bottle from our collection is the only perfect condition embossed example known to exist.

  • An 1882 view of Peachtree Street in Atlanta four years before Dr. Pemberton's introduction of Coca-Cola.

  • Frank Mason Robinson was born in 1845 in Corinth, Maine.  Mr. Robinson is credited with the concept of Coca-Cola. He named the drink created the logo, and marketed the product. It was Mr. Robinson who kept the drink going when many others failed to recognize its possibilities.

  • Jacobs Pharmacy at 2 Peachtree Street in Atlanta.  Coca-Cola was first served here at Venable's Fountain located on the first floor.

  • The location of Pemberton's laboratory at 107 Marietta Street.  It was in the former home of the Holland family who made the red brick dwelling into a boarding house when the commercialism of the city began to encroach upon the neighborhood.

  • The first ad for Coca-Cola – May 9, 1886 – as it appeared in The Atlanta Journal.

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