Why was COCA COLA invented ?

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cover S Atlantic2

This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: South Atlantic - Part 2

In the travel series View America, South Atlantic - Part 2 covers Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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Anaesthetics in the 1800's

John Pemberton, the inventor of the Coca Cola syrup, had been severely wounded in April 1865, during the Battle of Columbus, Georgia. Like many wounded veterans in those days he became addicted to morphine. Being a brilliant chemist, he searched for a cure to his addiction, or at least a more modern substitute. Necessity is the mother of invention...

At the time, the only decent anaesthetic was laudanum, an opium derivative, that slowly began to be replaced by morphine, another opiate, that came out after 1820. The pharmaceutical options of that time were very limited, and soon morphine was mixed with everything imaginable : water, tea, whiskey, wine, brandy, but also more esoteric substances such as hashish, cayenne pepper, ether, chloroform, or belladonna.

Morphine became immensely popular, because ailments, pain, cholera and diarrhoea were simply everyday living conditions. Opiates were widely used as a soporific or relief for colds and pain. Furthermore, the substance was extremely cheap, being taxed as a medicine and not as an alcoholic beverage. It was actually less expensive than gin or wine ! But the enthusiastic use of these habit-forming drugs sparked an enormous and world wide drug addiction problem.

Vin Mariani

Coca Cola : Vin Mariani 1Around 1858, the prominent Italian neurologist Paolo Mantegazza visited South America, and witnessed the use of coca by the natives. Het tested it himself, and in 1859 he published a scientific paper with the flowery title "Sulle Virtù Igieniche e Medicinali della Coca, e sugli Alimenti Nervosi in Generale" (About the hygienic and medicinal virtues of coca, and about nervous nutrients in general). One of his observations was that the cocaine in coca leaves seemed to stimulate the cognitive processes.

Around 1863, Angelo Mariani, a French Corsican chemist, had read Mantegazza’s paper and became intrigued with coca and its financial potential. He concocted a beverage called Vin Tonique Mariani, which was made from Bordeaux wine and coca leaves. It was to be used as a substitute for the opiates.

Vin Mariani originally contained 6 mg of cocaine per fluid ounce of wine, but the wine that was exported contained 7.2 mg per ounce, in order to compete with the higher cocaine content of similar drinks in the United States. Vin Mariani became extremely popular in Europe, with famous users such as Queen Victoria, Thomas Edison , Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius X. Pope Leo even awarded a Vatican gold medal to the wine, and publicly endorsed it !

Coca Cola

With the growing concern about drug addiction and alcoholism, in 1885 Atlanta enacted Temperance Legislation to curb the use of alcohol. Pemberton again began experimenting to produce a non-alcoholic alternative to his French Wine Coca, and he ended up with a syrup, made of cane sugar and extracts of coca leaves and cola nuts (caffeine). The syrup was then diluted with water, and cooled with ice cubes. Coca Cola was born !

This formula contained 8.46 mg of cocaine, but its effects were enhanced by the caffeine from the cola nut. The drink was originally advertised as a cure for morphine and opium addictions, among a wealth of other health benefits.

On May 8, 1886, the soft drink was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, for five cents a glass. About nine servings were sold each day, and the first year's sales added up to a grand total of about $50. On May 29, Pemberton ran the first advertisement for the beverage in the Atlanta Journal.

The difficult road for ownership of the Coca Cola formula

The dates of Pemberton's partnerships and companies, that led to the Current Coca Cola company, are hard to trace and very contradictory. Furthermore, in 1910, Candler had the earliest records of the company burned, obscuring its legal origins even more.

Pemberton never realized the potential of the beverage he created. He gradually sold stock to various partners, such as Margaret Dozier, Woolfolk Walker and Asa Candler, who was the owner of a pharmacy and drugstore.

In 1887, the company was again changed to Pemberton Medicine Company, a partnership between Pemberton, J.C. Mayfield, A.O. Murphey, C.O. Mullahy and E.H. Bloodworth.

In July 1888, Candler sold his beverage under the names "Yum Yum" and "Koke", but both failed to catch on.

Coca Cola : ad 3
Coca Cola : ad 4

By 1892, Candler's marketing genius had boosted the sales of Coca-Cola syrup nearly tenfold ! With his brother, John S. Candler, John Pemberton's former partner Frank Robinson and two other associates, Candler incorporated the (second and current) Coca-Cola Company, with an initial capital of $100,000. The trademark "Coca-Cola" was registered in the US States Patent Office on January 31, 1893.

On 12 March 1894, Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the first time !

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