Coca-Cola is more than just a beverage. It became a symbol of the New South after the Civil War, and it quickly grew to represent the whole of the United States during World War II and the Cold War. Coca-Cola has an extensive history, and while it shows how critical advertising can be for a successful company, it also proves that something as simple as a beverage can legitimately change history.
For everything that Coca-Cola has become since its creation, it had relatively simple origins. Two Georgia pharmacists steered its early history, from the beverage's creation to the creation of the overarching company. 132 years ago today, the Coca-Cola Company was incorporated by Asa Griggs Candler, a critical step in moving it from a local favorite to an international sensagtion.
The beverage that would come to be known as Coca-Cola was first created on May 8, 1886 by Dr. John Stith Pemberton. He created it because his first invention, Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, was blocked by a prohibition bill. Within a year, he had a non-alcoholic version, which became the basis of the company.
Pemberton was a pharmacist by trade, and he was primarily known for his high-quality labs, which were understood to be some of the best in the country. Per the New Georgia Encyclopedia, he was viewed in his own time as “the most noted physician Atlanta ever had.”
His formula for Pemberton's French Wine Coca was based on Peruvian Coca leaf, wine, and Kola nut. It's easy to see how this transitioned to Coca-Cola, as the formula stayed largely the same. The wine was dropped and a sugar syrup was added, bringing it closer to the formula that is so well known and loved today.
While websites like Scientific American have claimed to be able to make Coca-Cola using a similar recipe to its first formula, it's doubtful that the drink could have been as successful had it not been for strategic choices made by and for the Coca-Cola Company.
January 29, 1892: Coca-Cola Company founded
Although John Pemberton filed to incorporate the Coca-Cola Company in March 1888, he passed away later that year before he could see his dream become a reality. After his death, pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler began purchasing pieces of the company. By 1891, he had it all.
With Coca-Cola once again stable as a company, Candler took the natural next step. The Coca-Cola Company was incorporated on January 29, 1892. This move officially took it from being a successful product to a budding company, which would one day be one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
When the company was incorporated, it was valued at around $100,000, approximately $3.37 million in today's money. However, smart choices in advertising and distribution made by Candler and future owners Ernest and Robert Woodruff made all the difference. The Coca-Cola Company is now capitalized at over $256 billion.
It's hard to imagine the world without the Coca-Cola company and its many beloved drinks. While it may seem to be a relatively small moment in history, the influence of Coke on United States history may be more significant than Pemberton or Candler ever could have guessed.
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