John S. Pemberton was born in Knoxville, Georgia. At 19, he got his license to practice Thomsonian principles (basically, forget traditional medicine—we’ll concoct some drugs using a bunch of plants). Later, he took a more traditional route with medical and pharmacy school and became a doctor and pharmacist. But he didn’t do that for long...
Enter the Civil War. Pemberton fights in it, and gets cut with a sword. His doctors prescribe him with morphine. He gets addicted. To overcome his addiction, he tries to create an alternative. It's called “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca”. Apparently, when you’re addicted to Morphine, the solution is to make yourself less addicted by drinking alcohol infused with cocaine. It was said to have healing and restorative capabilities (I’m sure it made you feel real good).
Then, prohibition hit. Pemberton had to re-do the formula. He took the alcohol out, stumbled upon carbonation, and mixed in some new ingredients. The result? Coca-Cola. He started selling it in drug stores. He hadn’t even thought to sell it in bottles yet. He was selling it as syrup that you mix with water (gross). First year sales topped off at $50 (under $2,000 today). Eventually, he came to his senses and started selling it at restaurants and fountains (pubs). It gained traction.
One problem: Pemberton was still addicted to Morphine, and he started selling parts of the company to financially support his bad habit. Pemberton’s health was waning. So Pemberton cashed out completely and sold the rest of his stake in the company to Asa Candler.
With his controlling interest in Coca-Cola, Candler took the beverage company to the moon. Eventually, he sold it (the company has traded hands many, many times), but the brand has continued dominating the beverage world. It now has its hand in plenty of industries, and you can’t go anywhere without seeing the famed logo. The drink behemoth is worth over $230 billy (and still growing).
**Here's a few more resources: this article, and this video.
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