Have a Coke and a Smile . . . and Some Historic Ads.
Coca-Cola is an iconic soft drink, invented right here in Georgia by medical chemist and businessman John S. Pemberton in 1886. One of its earliest uses was as a cure for headaches, and the beverage was dispensed from drug store soda fountains. This can be seen in an early advertisement from druggists Evans and Howard, which was published in the April 29, 1887 issue of the Columbus Enquirer-Sun, just one year after Pemberton (a resident of Columbus for much of his life) created the drink.
Another ad published in the June 7, 1888 edition of the Columbus Enquirer-Sun, this time from Columbus druggists Hall and Wheat, praises the benefits of Coca-Cola as “the most meritorious article ever drawn through a soda apparatus” for “headaches” and “tired feeling.”
Coca-Cola’s popularity spread quickly, particularly after Atlanta patent medicine manufacturer and pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler purchased the rights to produce the soda fountain remedy. This ad from the Milledgeville Drug Company, seen here in the August 3, 1891 issue of the Milledgeville Union Recorder, heralds the availability of Coca-Cola on draught. Asa Candler incorporated the Coca-Cola Company in 1892.
A Coca-Cola Company ad from a 1907 issue of the Atlanta Georgian and News shows that competing fountain drinks attempted to imitate Coca-Cola due to its popularity, and that Coca-Cola appealed directly to its customers to help protect its trademark by refusing those products. This ad also features an earlier straight-sided Coke bottle design; in 1916, the company adopted its now-familiar contour-shaped or “hobble-skirt” bottle to guide its customers away from imitations.
During the early twentieth century, the Coca-Cola Company also employed several common themes in American print advertising, one of which was to feature popular athletes in its advertisements. The July 13, 1910 edition of the Athens Banner includes a Coca-Cola Company ad with Chicago Cubs first baseman Frank Chance; the July 21, 1911 edition of the same paper features an ad with Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Hans (“Honus”) Wagner.
Besides athletes, another advertising staple has always been pretty girls. Coca-Cola was no exception to this rule when promoting its product as “purely delicious and deliciously pure–and wholesome” in this ad from the May 9, 1912 issue of the daily edition of the Thomasville Times Enterprise.
Another ad from the June 27, 1911 edition of the Athens Banner invited people to join the “merry throng” enjoying Coca-Cola.
There were seasonal ad campaigns, as well. Thomasville, Georgia’s daily edition of the Times Enterprise features a Coca-Cola Company ad that persuades readers to purchase Coca-Cola, “A Glass of Liquid Winter,” to help cool down on hot summer days; this appeared in the August 18, 1911 issue of the newspaper.
Coca-Cola drinkers were encouraged to seek refreshment during the winter months, too. Like today, Christmas shopping back in 1915 could be an enjoyable, yet very tiring, exercise. Recognizing this, a local Coca-Cola bottler from Americus, Georgia ran an ad in the December 9 weekly issue of the Americus Times Recorder that promoted Coca-Cola as a refreshing tonic for “a busy day” of Christmas shopping.
Browse through more examples of historic print advertisement in Georgia newspapers, along with many more interesting items in the Digital Library of Georgia’s Georgia Historic Newspapers collections, which include the Athens Historic Newspapers Archive, the Atlanta Historic Newspapers Archive, the Columbus Enquirer Archive, the Macon Telegraph Archive, the Milledgeville Historic Newspapers Archive, and the South Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive.