No one wants accidents but not all accidents are bad. The pharmacist John Stith Pemberton is one of the individuals who proved that when he invented Coca-Cola on 6 May 1886.

John S. Pemberton was born in 1831 in Knoxville, Georgia. Pemberton and his family moved to Rome, Georgia where they lived for nearly 30 years. He attended the Reform Medical College of Georgia and earned his medical degree in 1850 at the age of nineteen.

Pemberton opened a drug store in Columbus after practicing medicine and surgery in Rome. He married Ann Eliza Clifford Lewis who was a student at Wesleyan College at the time. They had a son named Charles Nay Pemberton a year later.

Pemberton and his family lived in a Victorian cottage in Columbus. The cottage which was later known as Pemberton House is now a home of historic significance and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 28 September 1971.

Pemberton relocated his labs to Atlanta where his business continued to thrive. The success of his business did not stop him from joining the American Civil War where he served in the Confederate Army. He began with a rank of first lieutenant and later achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel.

John S. Pemberton invents Coca-Cola

In 1865 during the American Civil War, Pemberton was in direct line of fire when he was nearly fatally wounded by gunshot and sword. The wounds he sustained during the war were so painful that he got addicted to morphine almost immediately. Morphine helped him to relieve his pain.

When the American Civil War ended, Pemberton formed a partnership with Columbus physician Austin Walker and expanded his lab. The duo’s idea was to sell medical supplies and branch out into cosmetics. Their Sweet Southern Bouquet perfume became a success.

Seeking a cure for his morphine addiction, Pemberton began experimenting with coca and coca wines as means to create morphine-free painkillers. He eventually produced a beverage that he called Pembertons’s French Wine Coca. Pemberton sold the beverage as a headache remedy, mental aid and a cure for morphine addiction.

The Pemberton French Wine Coca sold well but when the Atlanta’s city government began the talks of alcohol prohibition, Pemberton feared that his popular drink could soon be banned. To save his business, Pemberton had to produce a non-alcoholic alternative to his Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.

Using an industrial-sized mixing-and-filter machine, Pemberton began a series of experiments on the drink at his home. He sent out samples to pharmacies around Atlanta to test customer reactions to his new alcohol-free drink.

Pemberton’s breakthrough came in 1886 when he produced a coca-based syrup that he blended with the carbonated water to combat the strong sweetness of the syrup. Pemberton decided to sell this as a carbonated soft drink rather than a medicine.

Pemberton’s bookkeeper and marketer came up with the name “Coca-Cola”. The Coca-Cola logo which is still in use today was also designed by him.

Unfortunately, Pemberton did not live long enough to profit from the huge sales of the soda that he created. Soon after Coca-Cola hit the market, he fell ill and was nearly bankrupt. He began selling the company off piece by piece partly to afford his continued expensive morphine addiction. John S. Pemberton succumbed to his illness on 16 August 1888 at the age of 57. Pemberton was poor at the time of his death.

If Pemberton never became addicted to morphine, he would never have worked so hard to create a cure for his morphine addiction and we wouldn’t be quenching thirst with cold Coca-Cola on sunny days.


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