Our Georgia History
 

John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
July 8, 1831 John Stith Pemberton born, Knoxville, GA. His middle name is sometimes misspelled as Styth.
  Crawford County, Georgia
  John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
January 1, 1886 John Stith "Doc" Pemberton, Frank Robinson, David Doe and Edward Holland formed the Pemberton Chemical Company. Robinson and Doe were selling printed advertising, Holland owned land, which he deeded to the company.
  John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
  Coca-Cola
May 8, 1886 First Coca-Cola served in Jacob's Pharmacy, Atlanta
  John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
  Coca-Cola
May 29, 1886 An ad appears for Coca-Cola in the Atlanta Journal. This is the earliest known ad for the soft drink
  John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
  Coca-Cola
June 28, 1887 The name Coca-Cola is trademarked by John S. Pemberton. He registered it in his name, not the name of the Pemberton Chemical Company.
  John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
  Coca-Cola
August 16, 1888 John Styth Pemberton dies, Atlanta, Georgia. Following a service attended by "every pharmicist in the city of Atlanta," Pemberton's body was returned to Columbus, Georgia
  John Stith (Styth) Pemberton
  Columbus, Georgia


Best known for creating the formula for Coca-Cola syrup, John Stith Pemberton was a successful businessman, soldier and pharmicist whose ideas helped revolutionize more than the soft drink industry. There is some debate as to the spelling of his middle name.

Born in Knoxville then the county seat of rural Crawford County, Georgia, Pemberton's family moved to Rome, Georgia as a young child. After attending college in Macon, Georgia, Pemberton moved to Columbus, where he began importing ingrediants to create herbal remedies. To ensure the ingrediants he used were as labeled, he became one of the first importers to test the quality of his purchases.

His business pursuits were interupted by the Civil War, during which time he served in the 3rd Georgia Cavalry Battalion. Following the war, Pemberton returned to Columbus where his business began growing in multiple directions. First, his successful formulations of herbal remedies, which led to the purchase of interests in drug stores including Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta. Second, other importers, anxious to have their incoming goods tested, went to Pemberton's lab for testing. Some of the methodology he pioneered in product testing is still in use today.

In 1869 the J. S. Pemberton Company moved its laboratory to Atlanta. Pemberton followed his company, moving from Columbus to Atlanta himself in 1870. Through the years Pemberton became highly respected in Atlanta. He served on the board of Atlanta Medical College, now a part of Emory University, had a thriving pharmacy business and ran a testing laboratory.

Although an exact diagnosis can not be made, during his time in Atlanta Pemberton began to have medical problems. The most commonly accepted theory is he suffered from a gastro-intestinal disease.

He did, however, become extremely interested in "coca wines," which were touted as a cure for morphine addiction. Most famous of the "coca wines" was formulated by Corsican Angelo Mariani in 1863. His "Vin Mariani" was the inspiration for Pemberton's first coca extract drink, Pemberton's French wine coca. The wine coca had begun regional sales when Atlanta outlawed wine sales in 1885. Pemberton was forced to remix his beverage.

Working from a home laboratory on the corner of Marietta Street and Peachtree Street, Pemberton blended coca extract with cola nuts, sorghum and other ingrediants to create a sweet brown syrup. He would send samples of the syrup to Willis Venable, who leased the bottom floor of Jacob's Pharmacy, to be mixed with soda water and tasted. Venable began serving the mixture to customers on May 8, 1886.




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