Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company

Asa Griggs Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company, was also a real estate developer and banker and famous for his philanthropy. Born in 1851 as one of eleven children of a prosperous merchant and planter, Candler was brought up with strong religious beliefs and a firm work ethic.

Candler became a successful manufacturer of patent medicines, and in 1888 he bought the Coca-Cola production rights from founder John Pemberton. He immediately realized the business potential of Coca-Cola and acquired complete ownership of the Coca-Cola business for $2,300 by 1891. He changed the formula several times to improve taste, improve shelf life and insure he had a unique product, because several people had known Pemperton’s original formula. Within four years, Candler’s merchandising flair helped expand consumption of Coca-Cola to every corner of the United States. Using innovative advertising and distribution methods, Candler marketed this new product no longer as a medecine but as a soft drink. In 1908 the Coca-Cola script had been spread across 2.5 million square feet of walls and 10,000 windows displayed Coca-Cola signs.

Until 1899, Coca-Cola was only sold as an over-the-counter fountain drink. Dubious about portable packaging, Candler sold the bottling rights in 1899 for one dollar. The first two bottling plants were located in Chattanooga and Atlanta.


Coke Bottling Plant installation at the World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta

The success of the operations was quickly realized and by 1929, 27 countries had bottling facilities. The 1916 introduction of the patented contour bottle made Coca-Cola instantly recognizable from imitators by taste, sight, and touch.

On Christmas Day 1917, Candler decided to give the Coca Cola Company to his children. Asa’s oldest son Howard took full control over Coca-Cola, and his brothers and sisters took seats on the board. In 1919, the Candler family sold the Coca-Cola Company to Ernest Woodruff.

Over the years, the Atlanta business tycoon diversified his interests by investing in real estate and banking. Candler’s great wealth enabled him to make large donations for good causes and education. His younger brother Warren, a Methodist bishop, advised him in these matters. Candler’s best-known philanthropy was in the form of a personal check for $1 million, donated to defray the costs of establishing Emory University in Atlanta. Over his lifetime his gifts to the university totaled about $8 million.

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John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola

 John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola

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.

 John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola

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.