Thursday, May 19, 2022

The "Other" Cola & More

In the past 3 months we've visited the birthplaces of two of the most popular colas worldwide. While we rarely drink soft drinks of any type, we can't resist an interesting location if it's along our way (and even if not).

Caleb Bradham
In February, we visited Atlanta, GA, known among other things as the home of Coca-Cola where the original formula was created in 1885 by pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton. The history of the Coca-Cola Company is seen in The World of Coca-Cola, a museum solely dedicated to the popular soft drink. That visit was detailed in a previous post.

But as most soft drink fans know, Coke isn't the only cola in town. The other one, that started out under the name "Brad's Drink" was created in 1893 in New Bern, NC, by another pharmacist, Caleb Davis Bradham. It's now known worldwide as Pepsi-Cola.

We're currently on a getaway in NC, and by a fortunate coincidence, staying just a 40-minute drive away from New Bern. Of course, we had to take a (side) road trip.
The Pepsi Store, the former site of Bradham's Pharmacy in New Bern, NC
New Bern is the second oldest city in NC and unlike the very large Atlanta facility, the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, isn't a museum or anything close to one.
The location of the original pharmacy and soda fountain contains souvenir merchandise related to the soft drink. Unlike the Coca-Cola facility there's no large exhibits detailing the drink's history. S
ome online articles suggested that the city may consider a future expansion to create a museum.

The only connection to the soft drink is that the location was the former site of Bradham's original downtown pharmacy and drug store. 

Now, it's more a souvenir shopping experience than anything else where a diehard Pepsi-Cola fan can find a lot of merchandise including apparel, collectables, ornaments, ball caps and more. It's open year round with no admission fee. Also, unlike Coke, no sampling area.

Caleb Davis Bradham was a NC native who planned to become a medical doctor. He worked part-time as a pharmacy apprentice at a local drug store while attending school in Maryland. When his father's business failed, he dropped plans for medical school and returned home. Later, Bradham enrolled in pharmacy school and, after graduation, opened a drug store on the corner of Middle and Pollock Streets in downtown New Bern. Like many other drug stores of the time, the pharmacy also housed a soda fountain.

Bradham wanted to duplicate the success of Coca-Cola and so created a formula under the name "Brad's Drink" made from a mix of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg and other natural ingredients. 
Introduced in 1898, its name implied its origin as a health tonic and the drink proved popular. Although there have been claims that person, a digestive enzyme, was included in the original formula it was never an ingredient in the original formula. 

Seeking a better name, Bradham bought the name "Pep Kola" from a local competitor and in August 1898 renamed the drink to Pepsi-Cola. He believed the drink was more than a refreshment but a “healthy” cola, that aided in digestion. The name was rooted from the word dyspepsia, meaning indigestion. The syrup was sold nationwide with the slogan, Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion.

In late 1902, the Pepsi-Cola Company was formed due to the rising popularity and demand for the Pepsi-Cola syrup. Bradham was the first company president. Business grew and in June 1903, Pepsi-Cola became an official trademark, one of the earliest in the history of the US Patent Office. By 1904, Pepsi-Cola syrup sales reached almost 20,000 gallons. 

Demand continued and by 1905, Pepsi-Cola was being sold in glass 6 oz bottles (prior to this time it was sold only as a syrup). Bradham sold franchises and by 1910 had 240 franchises in 24 states. Under Bradham's direction, the company started a successful advertising campaign featuring women and celebrities emphasizing the drink’s invigorating qualities. To meet the demand that the company advertisements produced, Pepsi-Cola Company was one of the first to ship products via motor transport.

The Pepsi-Cola franchise was hit hard when the U.S. entered WWI in 1917 and rationed sugar causing production and sales to fall. Pepsi-Cola was unable to produce enough syrup to meet consumer demands. Bradham tried sugar substitutes without success. None produced the same taste as the original formula with sugar. 

During the war, the government controlled sugar prices at three cents per pound.  At the war's end, price controls were lifted, and the cost soared (28 cents per pound). When WWI ended and price controls were lifted, the price of sugar soared. Customers still expected to buy a bottle of Pepsi-Cola for five cents. Bradham bought heavily in anticipation of even higher sugar prices. 
Then, sugar prices dropped and Bradham's stockpiling plan backfired, He had an over supply of the sweet and could not raise new capital. Losses mounted up and the company could not cover its production costs. In March 1923, the Pepsi-Cola Company declared bankruptcy and was sold to Craven Holding Company, a group of creditors which took control of the company’s trademark, patents, and other assets for $30,000.
Bradham returned to his drug store in New Bern as a full-time druggist and remained active in the community. I'm not sure if he sold Pepsi-Cola at the soda fountain in later years.

If you're a fan of all things Pepsi-Cola, you might be disappointed that the Birthplace of Pepsi in New Bern, NC, doesn't feature a lot of history about the soft drink. Since it was first sold in bankruptcy in 1923, there's been many twists and turns in the company's history including future bankruptcies. It's now known as Pepsico and remains in second place overall to Coca-Cola which has retained its dominance as the world's most popular soda drink.
The place where Pepsi-Cola was created is at its original downtown location on the corner of Pollock and Middle Streets. However, as noted earlier, the site now is mainly a place to buy merchandise. 
A small area features a recreation of a soda fountain shop where fountain drinks can be bought, but at higher prices then in Bradham's day. This storefront is only a recreation as the original was destroyed by fire years ago.

It was interesting to learn that both creators of these popular soft drinks, Pemberton (Coca-Cola) and Bradham (Pepsi-Cola) were pharmacists who created syrup formulas  while working in their pharmacy-drug store. At first, Pemberton's creation was sold as a cure-all product for nervous orders, depression, anxiety and when later added to carbonated water good for one's health. Bradham wanted to duplicate Pemberton's success, but first believed in the health, energy and digestive benefits of his creation.

While both men ultimately lost their businesses, Pemberton sold the syrup recipe and Bradham sold what seemed to be a more established company business. None of the articles I read ever mentioned that the formula for Pepsi-Cola was locked away in a secret vault, whereas for the Coca-Cola syrup formula, the Atlanta, GA, museum features an exhibit vault with the secret formula. They both died before the age of 70, Pemberton at age 57 and Bradham at age 67.

If you are wondering if this excursion was worth the excursion and gas cost, it would definitely not be recommended unless you were already in the area or planned to visit for other reasons. That said, there are several of those. New Bern, NC, has a vibrant downtown with many diverse shops which we explored during our visit. 

One very unique store, Mitchell Hardware, founded in 1898, is an authentic working hardware store offering home goods, garden care, and unique gifts. Founded as a livery stable in 1898 by Thomas Mitchell, the store originally specialized in selling mules, horses, wagons and harnesses.

Farmers Market Bear
If we didn't visit, we would also have missed seeing some of the 80 life-size fiberglass bear statues all around the city. The Bear Town Bears were created for New Bern’s 2010 tercentennial and are everywhere in the city—including the farmer’s market. The bears are more than a mascot; they are part of the heritage of the second oldest town in NC. Bern is an old Germanic word for bear and is the symbol of Bern, Switzerland, which is the hometown of the settlers who founded New Bern in 1710. New Bern was also the state's first capital from 1770 to 1792.

If any fellow bloggers are fans of author Nicholas Sparks, you may already know that several of his novels include New Bern, as a setting and it's also his home. New Bern’s place in Spark's novels is highlighted in A Bend in the RoadThe Wedding, The Notebook, and The Return. The Walk to Remember tour (the title of a Sparks book set in Beaufort) features more than a dozen stops in New Bern, including the Masonic Theater, Union Point and The Chelsea restaurant.
A delicious reason for our New Bern visit was to enjoy this wonderful dinner as guests of Chef Michael of the Doubletree Hotel there. It was an unexpected treat, always the best ones. By a  happy coincidence Chef Michael was visiting the Doubletree Hotel we're in at Atlantic Beach, NC, on  Saturday and overheard us mention our Monday anniversary. He invited, we accepted and dinner was delicious (trout, salmon and berry tarts).

Coincidences and happy surprises have been making this a wonderful celebration getaway. There was also the prime viewing of the lunar eclipse from our hotel room earlier this week


DUTA said...

The huge popularity gained by the Cola drink (both Pepsi Cola and Coka Cola) makes it a worthy topic for exploration and discussion. Thanks for your interesting and informative post.

Vee said...

Looks like the birthplace of Moxie. Personally, I always liked Pepsi, but like you, I rarely drink soft drinks any more. Have fun on your vacation visiting obscure locales. Who else will do it? 😁

Barbara Rogers said...

I would choose a Dr. Pepper if given the choice, and diet version which surprisingly tastes much like original. Thanks for the great description of the history of Pepsi. I knew it was NC based, but not all those details. Oh that was a great dinner to enjoy for your anniversary! So sorry the area you're in is so far from my Asheville area. I'm glad you did get to the beach at least!!

MadSnapper said...

my birth place is Savannah GA and I had no idea cola was invented in Atlanta. I do know that people from GA and other deep south states always ask for a coke, no matter if there is a sign saying they only have pepsi

Bijoux said...

Very interesting side trip with a sweet ending!

Latane Barton said...

Being a Southerner myself, I can attest to the fact that we Southerners love to drink. 😁 Nothing will ever be as good as our sweet tea but Coke and Pepsi are very refreshing, too.

Marcia said...

You're having such a good time on this trip. How's the beach?

CrystalChick said...

Interesting history of Brad's drink. I used to like caffeine-free Pepsi but haven't had any in years. I don't drink a lot of soda, but sometimes want Coca-Cola because it goes pretty good with rum. ;)
Glad you're enjoying your trip to NC. The bears in New Bern must be quite neat to see. And how wonderful to be treated to such a delicious dinner in celebration of your anniversary. Kudos to Chef Michael! And continued congratulations and best wishes!

Linda P said...

We get Coca-Cola in for our grandchildren. Our preferred choice of drink is Mr P's home-made wine. :) Enjoy your anniversary trip. Your special dinner prepared by Chef Michael looks delicious. Congratulations and best wishes.

Linda G. said...

Interesting history about Pepsi. I used to drink cola drinks heavily. I preferred Coke, because Pepsi always tasted too sweet. I drink a lot less cola drinks nowadays. I would have liked the bears in New Bern.

Jon said...

Your posts are always a learning experience, presenting interesting facts that I often didn't know.
Pepsi and Coke used to be great when I was a kid. Unfortunately the quality has greatly diminished in both drinks, and the price has skyrocketed....

It was so nice of the chef to prepare an anniversary meal for you - it really looks delicious.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Your meals look absolutely delicious. It's the kind of food I love to eat, especially when it is so attractively presented.

Margaret D said...

The food does look nice.
Interesting about the Coke and so on.

L. D. said...

Amazing new information from your blog. We are Pepsi drinkers and are boycotting Coke. Pepsi is smart and doesn't choose sides and I like their diet Pepsi better than the other diet brands. You have great looking meals.

Susanne said...

Thanks for the interesting history of Pepsi. I must now click over and read your Coke post as well.

gigi-hawaii said...

I prefer Diet Coke and always drink 1 can per day. I love your meal. How nice of the chef to invite you! Just love this type of excursion.

Polly said...

I don't drink it regularly but I like diet Coke. Very interesting history. My father-in-law worked for Pepsi many years ago. Your meal looks delicious. I hope you have a good weekend Beatrice.

Rita said...

I always preferred Pepsi and my son always preferred Coke--LOL! This was inteesting. The food looks delicious. :)

William Kendall said...

Quite a visit.

nick said...

I tried coke once but didn't like it. I'm just amazed at how long it's been popular (getting on for a century and a half). An interesting twist that Bradham's rash stockpiling of sugar ultimately led to his bankruptcy.

Edna B said...

Interesting. I drink Coke. Enjoy your day my friend, hugs, Edna B.

Susan Zarzycki said...

A very interesting article, especially since Pepsi is my favorite soft drink. ❤️

Lowcarb team member said...

What an interesting read ... thank you.

We do occasionally have coca-cola in the house, visitors seem to like it :)

All the best Jan

Rob K said...

I visited the Coca-Cola museum a few years ago while attending a conference for work. It was amazing to think that one product could have such an impact around the world.

I didn't know anything of Pepsi's history until I read your post, so, once again, thanks for bringing me up to speed.

My name is Erika. said...

I read this post and thought I'd left a comment, but now I see it didn't go through. Sorry it took me a week to get back to it. I've never been to the home of Pepsi, and it was fun that you were able to visit both Pepsi and Coke. Do you know if Dr. Pepper has a home base? Then there's Moxie? I know Polar is in Worcester but probably doesn't have a museum. That could be a great theme for a roadtrip, wouldn't it?

David said...

Beatrice, A very interesting history indeed! However, I'm a bit biased toward that 'other' cola. When my mother's health began to decline, her sister, who was married to the President of that 'other' Cola, stepped in and built her a new home complete with furnishings and locals who helped her each day. Then when my mom had to go into a nursing facility, my aunt picked up most of the cost. I'd probably still be working at something and living in different surroundings if my aunt hadn't taken charge. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave