We Ought To Serve A Little Something.
Any Coca-Cola 'Round Here?

"A Happy Family," American Life Histories , 1936-1940

What flavor shall I make it?
What Flavor
Shall I Make It?
circa 1900.
The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920

Dr. John S. Pemberton sold the first Coca-Cola on May 8, 1886, at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. Bookkeeper Frank Robinson coined the name and it is his handwriting we recognize as the Coca-Cola trademark. Until 1905, the drink, marketed as a tonic, contained extracts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.

By the late 1890s, Coca-Cola was one of America's most popular fountain drinks. With another Atlanta pharmacist, Asa Griggs Chandler, at the helm, the Coca-Cola Company increased syrup sales by over 4000% between 1890 and 1900. Advertising, was an important factor in Pemberton and Chandler's success and by the turn of the century, the drink was sold across the United States and Canada. Around the same time, the company began selling syrup to independent bottling companies licensed to sell the drink. Even today, the US soft-drink industry is organized on this principle.

Until the 1960s, both small town and big city dwellers enjoyed carbonated beverages at the local soda fountain or ice cream saloon. Often housed in the drug store, the soda fountain counter served as a meeting place for people of all ages. Often combined with lunch counters, the soda fountain declined in popularity as commercial ice cream, bottled soft drinks, and fast food restaurants came to the fore.

Soda Fountain
Soda Fountain (detail),
circa 1900.
The South Texas Border: The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection

Click on the picture for a better view of the Coca-Cola advertising sign on the left.

Store or Cafe with Soft Drink Signs
Store or Cafe with Soft Drink Signs (detail),
Marion Post Wolcott, photographer,
Natchez, Mississippi,
August 1940.
America from the Great Depression to World War II: Color Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1939-1945