First Coca-Cola Is Sold

Dr. John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist and inventor of patent medicines, sold the first Coca-Cola on May 8, 1886, at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, coined the name and it is his handwriting we recognize as the Coca-Cola trademark. Originally marketed as a tonic, the drink contained extracts of coca leaf, which includes 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 Candler, at the helm, The Coca-Cola Company's servings of the beverage increased from one million to one hundred million between 1890 and 1900. Advertising was an important factor in Pemberton and Candler'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 U.S. 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 parlor. 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.

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

— "A Happy Family"

The first Coca-Cola recipe was invented in a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia by John Pemberton, originally as a cocawine called Pemberton's French Wine Coca in 1885. He may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a European cocawine.

In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a non-alcoholic version of French Wine Cola. The first sales were at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886. It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health. Pemberton claimed Coca-Cola cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence. Pemberton ran the first advertisement for the beverage on May 29 of the same year in the Atlanta Journal.