Did you know that Atlanta is not only the capital city of Georgia GA and the state's most populated city, but it's also the home of Coca-Cola?
|The World of Coke Museum, cousin Kathie and Us (Atlanta, GA)|
The company's headquarters are on Pemberton Place which is a few blocks from its museum dedicated to the popular soft drink and called, no surprise, The World of Coca-Cola. On our February road trip we visited it when we spent time in GA to see my cousin. The museum, which showcases the history of the Coca-Cola Company, opened in May 2007 and replaced a previous exhibit space founded in 1990 in the former Underground Atlanta. We went on a very crowded Sunday and admission is charged: adults $18, seniors $16; youth to age 12 $14, toddlers free with paid adult admission; veterans Free.
|Dr. John Pemberton|
Pemberton, a doctor and pharmacist, was also a Confederate army veteran who suffered a saber wound in 1865 at the Battle of Columbus (GA) in the final month of the Civil War. After experimenting with pain relief, he became addicted to painkillers, mainly morphine and began seeking a cure for his addiction. In 1866, he began experimenting with painkillers that would be morphine-free alternatives drawing on his study of herbal medicine, he often used plants substances in his formulas.
|Pemberton's French Wine Cola Ad|
The remedy was sold as a cure for depression and anxiety, especially for women. Because it included alcohol, an issue arose when the city of Atlanta introduced alcohol prohibition in 1886 which also disallowed the sale of wine.
|Early Coca-Cola Ad|
The product's name was coined by Frank Mason Robinson, Pemberton’s bookkeeper, from the two main ingredients. Robinson, who recognized that the two curly ‘C’s would look great in advertising, hand lettered a banner in the curved flowing script that remains one of the most recognizable and famous logos in the world even now.
In 1886, Pemberton took the syrup to Jacob's Pharmacy, a popular Atlanta soda fountain, for tasting. In summer months and in hot southern towns, the local pharmacy soda fountain was a time-honored and well-known American institution.
|Jacob's Pharmacy, Atlanta, GA, circa 1886 (now demolished)|
At the pharmacy, Pemberton's syrup was added to carbonated water thought to be very good for one's health and often used in popular “cure-all” mixtures. The combination was sampled by customers who praised the drink and called it, excellent.
|Vintage Coca-Cola advertising|
As with his previous formula, Pemberton's new product was labelled as a cure-all and was described as a valuable brain tonic to help nervous issues, headaches, hysteria, depression and as a general stimulant and health booster. The new drink was also said to stimulate students and all brain workers and advertised as Delicious and Refreshing, a theme continued in later years. It was initially sold only in pharmacies and a soda fountain glass cost five cents.
|Early Coca-Cola Soda Fountain Ad|
Pemberton advertised heavily, using banners, newspaper advertisements and hand-painted oilcloth signs on store front awnings. He added the word, drink, to let people know that the new beverage was a soda fountain refreshment. On May 29, 1886, the first Coca-Cola newspaper ad appeared in The Atlanta Journal, inviting thirsty citizens to try the new soda fountain drink. Despite initial praise, the new drink was not an immediate hit and averaged less than 10 sales a day the first year.
This lack of sales is possibly what led Pemberton to sell a majority of his business to various business partners before his death, including fellow pharmacist Asa G. Candler who purchased the recipe for $1,750 in 1887.
After buying the rights to Coca Cola from Pemberton, Candler launched a new marketing campaign for the beverage. Under Candler’s management, distribution expanded to soda fountains beyond the Atlanta area. In 1892, he established the Coca-Cola Company and began large scale production in 1899 as a soft drink, bottled and canned it for retail sale.
Sadly, Pemberton didn't live to see the widespread success of his formula. He died in 1888 at age 57 in from stomach cancer. A skilled pharmacist and chemist, he was active in medical reform and a respected member of the state’s medical establishment. On the day of his funeral, sales of Coca-Cola were suspended for the day as city pharmacists closed their shops in tribute to one of their own and attended the funeral services. Candler served as one of the gentleman pallbearers. Pemberton's laboratories remain in operation 125 years later as part of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
|Vintage Coca-Cola Advertisements|
Three years after Pemberton’s death, Candler bought up all the interests in Coca-Cola for a total investment of $2,300. In 1919, the Candler family sold the company for $25 million to a group of investors who expanded it into a global enterprise. Candler also served as the 41st mayor of Atlanta from 1916 to 1919.
What began as a health tonic in 1886 was being sold in every U.S. state by 1900. The company now sells an estimated 1.9 billion bottles per day in over 200 countries making the Coca-Cola Company among the most widely recognized consumer products worldwide. The secret formula for Pemberton’s invention was kept in a SunTrust bank vault since 1925. In late 2011, it was moved to a vault that's now part of the Coca-Cola museum.
|Coca-Cola Ads from 1940s|
|Coca-Cola Ad from 1942|
Coca-Cola preceded the soft drink, Pepsi-Cola, by just a few years. While Pemberton created Coca Cola in 1886, the first Pepsi-Cola was created in 1893, also by a pharmacist, Caleb Bradham, in New Bern, NC. Bradham created a formula to duplicate the success of Coca-Cola and sold it under the name "Brad's Drink." Seeking a better name, Bradham bought the name "Pep Kola" from a local competitor changing it to Pepsi-Cola. Pepsi is taken from pepsin, a digestive enzyme used in Bradham's original formula. Introduced in 1898, its name implied its origin as a health tonic and the drink proved popular. In 1902, Bradham incorporated the Pepsi-Cola Company. And, just as Coca-Cola no longer contains cocaine, Pepsi-Cola no longer has pepsin as an ingredient.
|Mary Mac's Tea Room, Atlanta, GA|
If Coca-Cola is Atlanta's most iconic drink, fried chicken is one of its best-known foods, and one of the best places to eat it is at Mary Mac’s on Ponce De Leon Ave. It's been named Atlanta's Dining Room and has been recognized as an iconic Atlanta institution.
There’s nothing in Atlanta quite like it. The surroundings are comforting and the food is classic Southern cooking.
Mary Mac’s always draws a crowd of hungry diners. There's usually a waiting line on weekends. My cousin advised we get there early to avoid the surge of diners after Sunday services. She was right. There was no waiting line when we arrived before noon, but a lengthy waiting line by the time we exited.
Mary Mac's was just one of 16 tea rooms that populated Atlanta in the 1940s and has remained in the same location since opened by Mary MacKenzie in 1945. After WW II ended, women established restaurants all over Atlanta. Back then, a woman couldn’t simply up a restaurant, especially in the South, so many female proprietors used the more refined Southern name, “tea room.” Mary Mac’s Tea Room (originally Mrs. Fuller’s Tea Room) seated 75 guests in one dining room. Today, it's the only original tea room still in operation with six dining rooms and is one of the city’s five-largest restaurants.
|Mary MacKenzie (L) & Margaret Lupo (R)|
Lupo, became the new owner. Lupo turned heads for making her dining room unsegregated because as she said, You were all equal folk at the table. In 1992, after 30 years, Lupo was ready to quit the business. She reportedly trained its next owner, John Ferrell, for 18 months before feeling OK with him owning it. Ferrell ran the business until March 2020 when, in the wake of COVID-19, he closed the restaurant for the safety of staff and guests.
Mary Mac’s remained closed for most of its 75th year in business, then Harold Martin purchased the restaurant and ensured it could re-open with stricter safety and sanitary measures. Martin kept all 100+ employees on staff and didn't change anything about the restaurant or its menu, which has mostly remained original to 1945. Kitchen technology has advanced, but Mary Mac’s Tea Room still does everything in-house – down to shucking bushels of corn and snapping fresh green beans by hand. Every morning, breads and desserts, like old fashioned banana pudding and fresh Georgia peach cobbler are baked in house and Table Wine of the South, otherwise known as sweet tea, is brewed.
|Grenville & Mary Mac's Fried Chicken|
Of course, we had to order the crispy fried chicken. The menu also includes over 30 fresh vegetables, including fried green tomatoes, which my cousin ordered. Many recipes were documented by former owner Margaret Lupo in the 1960s. Others have been passed down from family members over the years.
|Mary Mac's table order forms|
Much like the food, there's no secret special sauce that makes Mary Mac’s Tea Room such an iconic Atlanta institution. This establishment paints a more vivid picture of Atlanta than any museum or historical site ever could. Once again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The walls are covered with pictures of famous visitors over the years, including Dalai Lama, Congressman John Lewis, James Brown, Beyonce, Senator Hillary Clinton, country singer Alan Jackson and President Jimmy Carter.
You don't have to be famous to dine at Mary Mac's tea Room, just come hungry, and be prepared to wait if you're not early enough. Trust us, it was worth the wait.
This is the final post on our February road trip to FL and places in between. Next week is a return to posts about places closer to home and random posts of nonsense.