John Pemberton

John Pemberton
John Stith Pemberton

John Stith Pemberton
Born July 8, 1831(1831-07-08)
Knoxville, Georgia
Died August 16, 1888(1888-08-16) (aged 57)
Atlanta, Georgia
Resting place Linwood Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia
Nationality United States
Occupation Chemist
Known for Coca-Cola
Spouse Ann Eliza Clifford Lewis
Children Charles Ney Pemberton
Parents James Clifford Pemberton, Martha L. Gant

John Stith Pemberton (July 8, 1831 – August 16, 1888) was a Confederate veteran and an American druggist, and is best known for being the inventor of Coca-Cola.


Early life

Pemberton was born to James Clifford Pemberton (born 1803 in North Carolina) and Martha L. Gant (born 1803 in Virginia), both of English descent.[1] Though born in nearby Knoxville, Georgia, Pemberton, as a young child, moved with his family to the larger city of Columbus, Georgia. His uncle, John C. Pemberton, was a Confederate lieutenant general during the U.S. Civil War.[citation needed]

Invention of Coca-Cola

In April 1865, Pemberton was wounded in the Battle of Columbus, Georgia, and like many wounded veterans, he became addicted to morphine. Searching for a cure for this addiction, he began experimenting with coca and coca wines, eventually creating his own version of Vin Mariani, containing kola nut and damiana, which he called Pemberton's French Wine Coca.[2][3]

With public concern about drug addiction, depression and alcoholism among veterans, and "neurasthenia" among "highly-strung" Southern women,[4] his medicinal concoction was advertised as being particularly beneficial for "ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration, irregularities of the stomach, bowels and kidneys, who require a nerve tonic and a pure, delightful diffusible stimulant."[5]

In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton found himself forced to produce a non-alcoholic alternative to his French Wine Coca.[6] Pemberton relied on Atlanta druggist Willis Venable to test, and help him perfect, the recipe for the beverage, which recipe he formulated by trial and error. With Venable's assistance, Pemberton worked out a set of directions for its preparation that eventually included blending the base syrup with carbonated water, and Frank Mason Robinson came up with the name "Coca-Cola" for the alliterative sound, which was popular among other wine medicines of the time. Although the name quite clearly refers to the two main ingredients, the controversy over its cocaine content would later prompt The Coca-Cola Company to state that the name was "meaningless but fanciful." Robinson also hand wrote the Spencerian script on the bottles and ads. Pemberton also made many health claims for his product and marketed it as "delicious, refreshing, exhilarating, invigorating" and touted it as a "valuable brain tonic" that would cure headaches, relieve exhaustion and calm nerves.

Asa Candler bought the business in 1887.[6] In 1894, Coke was sold in bottles for the first time. During World War II, bottling plants were set up in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific islands.

John Pemberton in popular culture

In 2010 the Coca-Cola Company paid tribute to Pemberton as a key character within an advertising campaign called "Secret Formula". Centered on the secret ingredients of Coca-Cola, imagery related to Pemberton was used to make people more aware of Coke’s history and mythology.

John Pemberton was also referenced in an installment of Futurama titled "The Deep South."

In May 2010, a Twitter account was created for John Pemberton, which was subsequently "verified" by the website. It is currently active and has more than 55,000 followers as of September 2011.[7]


  1. ^ Ancestry of John Pemberton
  2. ^ Dominic Streatfeild, Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, Macmillan (2003), p. 80.
  3. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines, The Pursuit of Oblivion, Norton (2004), p. 152.
  4. ^ John Shelton Reed, Minding The South, University of Missouri Press (2099), p.171.
  5. ^ Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It, Basic Books: enlarged 2nd edition (2000), p.24.
  6. ^ a b Is This the Real Thing? Coca-Cola's Secret Formula "Discovered"
  7. ^ John Pemberton's 'Twitter account'

Further reading

  • Schoenberg, B S (1988), "Coke's the one: the centennial of the "ideal brain tonic" that became a symbol of America.", South. Med. J. 81 (1): 69–74, 1988 Jan, doi:10.1097/00007611-198801000-00015, PMID 3276011 
  • King, M M (1987), "Dr. John S. Pemberton: originator of Coca-Cola.", Pharmacy in history 29 (2): 85–9, PMID 11621277 
  • Hasegawa, Guy (March 1, 2000), "Pharmacy in the American Civil War.", American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 57 (5): 457–489, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 

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