I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke: Advertising in America 

Introduction

Drink Coca-Cola 5 centsA search for perfection, begun in 1880, has resulted in the sale of 2,400,000,000 five-cent drinks of COCA COLA in one year.

Originated before modern chemisty was able to reproduce the tastes and colors that occur in nature by means of chemical compounds, COCA COLA still remains an old-fashioned beverage, composed entirely of natural products.

Atlanta, Georgia, was the scene of the labors of Dr. J.S. Pemberton, the originator of COCA COLA. As a contrast to the thirteen modern factories, equipped with every device for preserving the purity and wholesomeness of COCA COLA, he worked with a kettle and a ladle in the kitchen of an old residence.

On the corner below the house was a drug store, equipped with a soda fountain, one of the three fountains in the city at that time, though the number has increased to 389 now. After mixing a new combination in his kettle, Dr. Pemberton would rush down to the little drug store, mix his syrup with carbonated water and taste the drink.

In 1886 he made his final trial, his sense of taste assured him that he had reached perfection, his beverage was ready for the market. An associate, F. M. Robinson, suggested the name COCA COLA, and that year 26 gallons were sold. This ends the first chapter of the romance, the period of discovery.

The second chapter in the story of COCA COLA must describe the solution of a problem peculiarly modern--distribution.

Though the taste was good, the product wholesome, its manufacture clean, and its results as a thirst-quencher excellent, there still remained the difficulty of spreading the beverage and the message from the old resident in Atlanta to every town and hamlet of the United States and Canada and to 29 foreign countries.

For this purpose the original Coca Cola Company was organized as a close corporation in 1892. The originator had died and the destiny of COCA COLA was left in the hands of business men, better equipped than he perhaps to effect distribution. There had been no predecessor to show them how to market a soft drink. No pioneer had blazed the trail. Their methods were of necessity original.

The Coca Cola Company was one of the first companies in America to catch the vision of advertising--a means of telling the world that you have a quality product--delicious and refreshing.

Beginning with an initial expenditure of $46.00, the advertising appropriation has grown until at the end of 1924 more than forty million dollars had been spent advertising COCA COLA.

In response to demand, factories were built at Dallas and Chicago, then Los Angeles, New York, Cuba and Canada, until now 13 factories, 27 warehouses, 1,200 bottlers, 2,300 jobbers, 115,000 fountain dealers and 300,000 bottle dealers form the distribution chain of COCA COLA.

During the year 1919 the close corporation which was The Coca Cola Company was changed into a corporation composed of thousands of stockholders.

The direction of the vast COCA COLA business now rests in the hands of Robert W. Woodruff. Under his able guidance, the manufacturing process was perfected and a sales organization, commensurate with the advertising development, was built. No small job, this, to cover the United States, Canada and Cuba with the actual beverage, the message inviting each passerby to partake and the service to the retailer afforded by the monthly visits of our salesmen. This task required the genius of organization.

The search for perfection brought success. The 26 gallons have increased to 700,000 times that amount. The romance of discovery was followed by the intelligent application of modern business methods, and the result is 6,000,000 nickels a day spent for COCA COLA.

Possessing the first essential, quality product, confident in the ability of its leader, assured by the cumulative effect of 39 years of advertising and the knowledge of steadily increasing sales, The Coca Cola Company looks forward to the future, realizing that popular demand has made of its product an essential.

From: The Story of a Pantry Shelf: An Outline History of Grocery Specialties. New York, Butterick [c1925]

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 7: The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)

   Standard 3: How the United States changed from the end of World War I to the eve of the Great Depression.

        Standard 3C: The student understands how new cultural movements reflected and changed American society. 

        5-12: Analyze how radio, movies, newspapers, and popular magazines created mass culture. [Examine the influence of ideas]

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Drink Coca-Cola 5 cents
    DATE CREATED: 189-
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: No known restrictions on publication.
    SUMMARY from the Library of Congress: Print shows a well dressed young woman, wearing hat, white gloves, and pearls, holding up a glass of Coca-Cola, seated at a table on which is a vase of roses, the "Drink Coca-Cola" sign, and a paper giving the location of the "Home Office [of the] Coca-Cola Co." as well as branch locations.
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  2. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, Coca Cola [Sign on building]. Elwood F. Bell, Chemist, office covered with Coca-Cola and other ads
    DATE CREATED: 1911
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE: Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920
    REPOSITORY: Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University.

  3. DESCRIPTION: Anna Kelton Wiley Papers. Harvey Wiley Letter to President Coolidge on Enforcement of the Pure Food and Drug Laws to Protect Consumers.
    DATE CREATED: 1925
    SUMMARY from American Memory: Mimeographed series of typed letters, in the style of a briefing book, outlining the federal government's lax enforcement of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. It is not clear in what sense this letter "was never sent," as a handwritten note on the mimeograph packet specifies. The fact that the materials in the Anna Kelton Wiley Papers are mimeographed may suggest that they were circulated as an "open letter." Dr. Harvey Wiley was prime mover behind passage of the pure food and drug laws in 1906, when he served as Chief Chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Also included in the portfolio are letters reviewing the history of a number of lawsuits against the manufacturers of such food additives as caffeine in Coca Cola, bleach in flour made by Gold Medal, and artificial sweeteners such as saccharin. Dr. Wiley's letter, a summary of the documents that accompanied it, and an abbreviated version of the government's response were published in two issues of the mass-market consumer magazine Good Housekeeping, for whose Bureau of Foods, Sanitation, and Health Dr. Wiley served as editor. Entire folder selected: 100 pages.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Copies of Photographs
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  4. DESCRIPTION: Drink Coca-Cola 5 cents
    DATE CREATED: 189-
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: No known restrictions on publication.
    SUMMARY from the Library of Congress: Print shows a well dressed young woman, wearing hat, white gloves, and pearls, holding up a glass of Coca-Cola, seated at a table on which is a vase of roses, the "Drink Coca-Cola" sign, and a paper giving the location of the "Home Office [of the] Coca-Cola Co." as well as branch locations.
    SOURCE: Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  5. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, [Coca-Cola machine labeled "White customers only!"]
    DATE CREATED: between 1943 and 1960
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Publication may be restricted. For information see "Visual Materials from the National...," (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/res/086_naa.html)
    SOURCE: Part of Visual Materials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Records (Library of Congress)
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

  6. DESCRIPTION: [Stop motion: Walking hot dog, hamburgers, and disappearing Coca-Cola]
    DATE CREATED: 1953, D'Arcy Agency
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    NOTES from American Memory: This film is from an advertising reel with a work print version of stop motion advertising developed by the D'Arcy agency for Coca-Cola between 1954 and 1956. D'Arcy was Coca-Cola's advertising agency from 1906 until 1956 when Coca-Cola changed their advertising agency to McCann. This work print contains no sound and the ads appear primitive, one of the reasons for the move to McCann.
    SOURCE: Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  7. DESCRIPTION: Video, Hilltop
    DATE CREATED: 1971, McCann-Erickson
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SUMMARY from American Memory: Young people singing "I'd like to buy the world a coke" on a hilltop in Italy.
    SOURCE: Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  8. DESCRIPTION: Video, Mean Joe Greene
    DATE CREATED: 1979, Jean-Claude Kaufman/McCann-Erickson
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    NOTES from American Memory: Featuring the defensive lineman "Mean" Joe Greene from the Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team and a twelve-year-old boy, Tommy Okon
    SOURCE: Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  9. DESCRIPTION: Video, Polar Bear - Northern Lights
    DATE CREATED: 1993 Ken Stewart/Creative Arts Agency
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    NOTES from American Memory: The first of the Polar Bear commercials from 1993. This ad was launched with the beginning of the Always campaign
    SOURCE: Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  10. DESCRIPTION: Charity
    DATE CREATED: 1998, McCann-Erickson
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    NOTES from American Memory: International commercial broadcast in 20 Islamic countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco.
    SOURCE: Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

    See: Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements from American Memory.

    See also: The Rise of Advertisement and American Consumer Culture

Additional Media Resources

Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements

Highlights in the History of Coca-Cola Television Advertising

The "Hilltop" Ad: The Story of a Commercial

Biography of Dr. John S. Pemberton, Inventor of Coca-Cola

Timeline: Advertising Times

Television Advertising: A Brief History

Beverage Industry: Celebrating 50 Years of Service

The Coca-Cola Company

World of Coca-Cola

Additional Instructional Resources

The Learning Page: Collections Connections; Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929

Secondary Resources

Allen, Frederick. Secret Formula : How Brilliant Marketing and Relentless Salesmanship made Coca-Cola the Best-Known Product in the World. New York, NY: HarperBusinesss, c1994

Hays, Constance L. The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company. New York: Random House, c2004.

Pendergrast, Mark. For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Unauthorized History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes it. New York: Collier Books , 1994.

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Nancy Bramucci.

 

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