The message on this sign in an alley in the 100 block of North Main Street in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, reads (just barely), "Drink Coca-Cola Relieves Fatigue." I'm not certain how old the sign is, but research shows similar wall advertisements in other parts of the country on display in 1907. So perhaps it's a safe bet to claim '07 unless someone tells us different. That's our story and we are sticking to it.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Coca-Cola first saw the light of day in 1886. The concoction got its name from the two "medicinal" ingredients, kola nuts and extract from coca leaves, the latter being known as cocaine. The inventor was John Pemberton, a pharmacist who had tried his hand at several other drugs, all of which (forgive me here), fizzled.
Pemberton hooked up with Frank Robinson, who registered the formula in the U.S. patent office. A man of admirable talents, Robinson also designed the Coca-Cola logo and coined the slogan, "The Pause That Refreshes." Pemberton died in 1888 before his invention began its mercurial rise to beverage stardom.
Asa Griggs Candler took the helm of the business in 1891. He was a promoter of the P.T. Barnum ilk. He plastered the logo on a variety of media, including coupons, and had a phalanx of salesmen promoting the elixir. Originally he sold Coca-Cola as a patent medicine, but the Congress of the United States helped him change his direction when they enacted a tax on all medicines in 1898. At that point Candler decided that Coca-Cola would be marketed as a beverage — and the rest is history. It was not until 1929 that the last tiny bit of cocaine was removed from the formula.
I have had the old sign in my crosshairs for several years, but just lately pulled the trigger. The sign is on a building owned by Jefferson County. In their wisdom, the county left the sign alone when they remodeled the old building that is home to the sign. Similarly, they left the brick in the alley, eschewing an ignominious burial under asphalt.
Here's a closer look at the old sign. The red object to the left of the picture is another old building, which retains a lot of its original character.
Though the sign has deteriorated, one can still get the gist of the thing. These old wall signs are now public art in my humble opinion. It took a great deal of skill and patience to paint on bricks and have the results make sense. Those who can still ply this trade are few and far between.
Though "sugary" drinks now draw scorn from some, my favorite remains a Co-cola (the proper pronunciation of Coca-Cola here in LA). Well, there is one acceptable derivative, "Ko-Kohler." There's nothing like it on a hot August day.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.