The red and white label with a flowing script font has made Coca-Cola one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. The popular soda drink is sold in over 200 countries around the world, making The Coca-Cola Company a multi-billion dollar a year juggernaut. But did you know the popular soda drink was invented in Georgia and bottled for the very first time in Vicksburg, Mississippi? You can learn all that and so much more at the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum in this small southern city.
The short version of the invention of Coca-Cola begins in 1886 when Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia, created a syrup from a unique combination of ingredients that are still secret to this day. At first the syrup was distributed to drugstores across the country where it was combined with carbonized water in soda fountains. Coca-Cola became an instant sensation and people would travel for miles just to visit the nearest drugstore to get a paper cup filled with the fizzing beverage.
In 1894 Joseph Bidenharn, a candy store merchant, realized that with the popularity of Coca-Cola at his soda fountain in the city he could probably sell even more in the countryside if he could only find a way to transport it. He obtained permission from then-president of The Coca-Cola Company, Asa Candler, and began a search for the right kind of glass bottle. Later that year he began bottling Coca-Cola for the very first time in his candy store on Washington Street in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Today that candy store is a rather nice museum. Visitors begin with a walk through one-half of the two-building structure to learn the long version of the history of Coca-Cola and how it came to be bottled. Throughout the museum visitors read about the famous flowing script in the logo, the various people who grew the original company, and the local candy store merchant who first bottled the soda. There is a recreation of a bottling machine and display cases filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia.
The other half of the two-building structure has a recreation of the original office and the gift shop. The long wall is chocked fulled of hundreds of collectible Coca-Cola bottles, most of them filled and unopened. Some are decades old with old-fashioned labels while others are as recent as last Christmas. Display cases filled with bottles through the decades offer a fascinating study of the evolution of the Coke bottle.
The final stop before leaving the interesting museum is the beautiful marble countertop with an old soda fountain on the wall behind. A friendly staff member will get you a cold soda or make a Coke float to take with you. It only takes about half an hour to explore this small museum but it’s definitely worth it, even if you’re a Pepsi fan.
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