On May 29, 1886, Pharmacist Doctor John Stith Pemberton of Columbus, Georgia took out an advertisement in the Atlanta Journal offering an elixir that was the end result of him getting slashed across the chest by a saber in the Civil War, making today
NATIONAL COCA COLA DAY!
Pemberton was gravely wounded while serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate Army and, like many a recuperating Civil War soldier, became addicted to morphine.
A pharmacist by trade, Doctor Pemberton experimented with many non-narcotic pain killers to break his own addiction and help relieve the national scandal of drug addicted war veterans that had persisted for 2 decades, called “The Soldier’s Disease.”
The result was Coca Cola, a cocaine and cola based drink sold as a “valuable brain tonic,” “exhilarating,” and “ideal for ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration.”
Well, the stuff caught on, eventually changed from being a medicinal tonic to a soda pop and went on to become synonymous with America, the most successful product of any kind ever made.
Ironically, it was another war, World War 2, that was responsible for bringing Coke all over the world, and it remains a global best-seller. There is nowhere on the planet unaware of Coca Cola, and few who haven’t tasted it.
Sadly for Pemberton, he died sick and broke, having sold his company to Asa Candler, feeling certain it would one day be a “National Drink.”
He had no idea how true that was. Understandably, the Coca Cola Company has never built an advertising campaign around its unfortunate founder, or war, or recovery from drug addiction, concentrating instead on more cheerful themes, happy to put complex history and the New Coke debacle behind them.
•Suggested Activities: Have a coke and a wry smile.