EXIT of the Day: Hear this Here:
Exit 67 in GA I-95n To: US 17, Coastal Hwy, to S Newport near Riceboro, GA
“Coke is it.” “Coca Cola is Coke.” “It’s the Real Thing.” But for the jingles like these and a sordid startup story, it may just as well have been another cola runner up. But when Asa Candler bought Coke’s Founders Stock from Inventor John Pemberton, Coca-Cola was just another patent medicine instilled with the narcotic, cocaine. Shortly, the true inventor, Pemberton would become almost irrelevant. And Asa would become a visionary. At least that was how the Atlanta based company likes to tell the story today. But in the beginning, in the 1880’s, Asa Candler may have just been a real devious operator.
So how did a concoction of cola nut syrup and sugar get so big? Well some could say, it all started with addiction and the Civil War. Confederate Colonel John Pemberton was wounded in the Civil War. Like many others, he became addicted to the pain killer morphine. But unlike many others, John Pemberton set out to find a cure for his addiction and ultimately found it in substituting cocaine for morphine.
Borrowing from a cocaine tinctured Spanish beverage called “Cola Coca”, Pemberton made a significant contribution by carbonating his elixir — and of course, swapping the names. Then he marketed it to soda fountains in drug stores. Pemberton claimed “Coca-Cola” cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, indigestion, headaches, and even impotence.
By 1887, fellow Georgian Asa Candler had invested and yet he owned Coke Business stock, a percentage of the name Coca Cola, but none of the valuable Coke formula which was still owned by the Pemberton family. On his own, Asa had tried to launch a few other soda fountain drinks but they all failed. The only concoction selling was the original Coca-Cola.
Then old man Pemberton died. Colonel Pemberton’s forty year old son was Charley. Charley Pemberton was an alcoholic. For the scheming Candler, Charley was the one obstacle in Asa Candler’s quest to own the entire company.
Candler quickly approached Charley to purchase the exclusive rights to the name "Coca-Cola" right after Colonel Pemberton's death. But the prodigal son was not selling. One story was that Asa Candler then turned to the widow Pemberton. In fact he turned to her in the funeral home. Approaching the recently bereaved wife at Colonel Pemberton’s funeral, Asa bought the title to the name from Charley's mother for $300. But he still had to get the rights to the formula. And Charley was still NOT selling!
Then something auspicious happened. Charley Pemberton was found on June 23, 1894, unconscious — with a stick of opium by his side. Ten days later, Charley was dead. Shortly afterwards, a mysterious fire allegedly wiped out any other evidence of any other Pemberton heir’s claim to Coke stock. That coupled with a few forged stock transfer documents, and shazam! Asa Candler wound up as the majority stock owner of Coca Cola.
All told the Candlers bought out the Pemberton family for about $2,500 dollars.
Today, Coke products are sold in over 200 countries worldwide, with consumers drinking around two billion company beverage servings each day. If Asa Griggs Candler was to buy Coke on the open market today, he would need to pay over $188 billion dollars.
No wonder Coke is It. Coca Cola after all is just that. It’s the real thing. And apparently Asa Candler knew it ALL along….
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