John Stith Pemberton was born in Knoxville, USA. He studied at the Medical College of Georgia and later obtained a degree in pharmacy from a school in Philadelphia. In 1855, Pemberton moved to Columbus, Georgia, with his wife, Anna Eliza Clifford Lewis, and their only son, Charles Ney Pemberton. Here, he practiced primarily as a druggist for fourteen years, though he also performed other medical procedures.
In May 1862, Pemberton enlisted as a first lieutenant in the Confederate Army.
For five years after the war, Pemberton worked as a partner with Dr. Austin Walker, a local and wealthy physician. During this time, Pemberton invested all of his money in researching and developing a line of proprietary items, which included perfumes and botanical medicines. During this time, there was a large demand for home remedies and tonics in the United States, especially in large cities.
In 1869, Pemberton moved to Atlanta to start a lucrative business. He developed, and successfully sold, a drink he called “French Wine Coca.” Based on a similar European product called “Vin Mariana,” Pemberton’s tonic combined wine and the extract from coca leaves. Coca extract was commonly used at the time in medicines.
In 1885, with talk of Prohibition, Pemberton developed a drink without alcohol. Pemberton added the extract from cola nuts, a strong stimulant containing caffeine, along with the coca, and he replaced the wine with sugar syrup. On May 18, 1886, Pemberton decided on a final formula for his new drink.
On June 28, 1887, the Coca-Cola trademark patent was granted. Jacobs Pharmacy, in Atlanta, Georgia, was the first place to serve Coca-Cola from a soda fountain. The coca extract was eventually removed from the drink in 1905.
Pemberton’s financial troubles led him to sell, trade, and give away portions of his company to various individuals. Pemberton died on August 16, 1888, of stomach cancer, leaving behind many unfinished formulas. Coca-Cola eventually became one of the most prosperous businesses in the US.
Source: Pemberton, John S. Biography by Delores C. S. James.