COLUMBUS' SOFT DRINK HERITAGE TRAIL

Learn about Columbus' connection to Coca-Cola, RC Cola, Nehi, and their founders through this Uptown walking tour. 

W.C. BRADLEY & COCA-COLA

1017 Front Avenue

W.C. Bradley was a Columbus cotton merchant, industrialist, banker, and the city’s leading enterpreneur. He also became a leader within a syndicate formed by Ernest Woodruff to purchase Coca-Cola from the Candlers in 1919. This group organized the new Coca-Cola Corporation and issues the first public Coke stock. 

Bradley bought a large number of shares but more imporant, he actively sold shares to local and out-of-state friends and fellow bankers. Bradley became Chairman of the Coca-Cola Board in 1919 and served for 27 years. 

PEMBERTON'S COTTAGE

11 7th Street

From 1855 to 1860 Dr. John S. Pemberton, originator of the formula for Coca-Cola, lived in this house with his family. Dr. Pemberton and his wife Ann Eliza Clifford Lewis had one son, Charles. 

 

As a druggist in Columbus, he originated several medicines before he moved to Atlanta in 1869. Dr. Pemberton died in 1888 and is buried in Linwood Cemetery. In 1972, Historic Columbus and the Coca-Cola Company partnered to save and restore the home. Originally located at 1017 3rd Avenue, the house and an outbuilding were moved to this site. The home served as a house museum until 2013.

 

PEMBERTON’S DRUG STORES

Middle of the West Side of 1100 Block of Broadway

Dr. John S. Pemberton, physician, pharmacist, and manufacturing chemist, was one of many druggists in Columbus. Newspaper ads define his career and his competitors. Pemberton was a partner in six firms from 1857-1869. His partners included Robert Carter, another druggist, and Nathaniel Nuckolls, a wealthy local businessman who supplied only capital for their store in Cook’s Hotel.

 

All of Pemberton’s drug stores had a soda fountain dispensing sparkling drinks for ten fruit extracts with soda water. His French Wine of Coca, later Coca-Cola, was marketed as a tonic and a soda fountain drink.

PEMBERTON’S CHEMICAL HOUSE

NE Corner of 10th Street & Broadway

In November 1865 Dr. John S. Pemberton announced, “the storm of war was over and commerce was bright.” He was launching his largest enterprise to date, the Eagle Drug & Chemical House, as part of J. S. Pemberton & Co., wholesale druggists. His partner Dr. Austin M. Walker provided capital, while Pemberton went to New York City and personally selected $20,000 worth of stock. His ads detail the chemicals, drugs, fancy goods, and perfumes from Paris and Persia, and furniture for druggists and physicians.

 

Pemberton took great pride in his company’s laboratory. Dr. Pemberton and chemist William J. Land tested the purity of ingredients, mixed drugs, and developed new products. Pemberton’s Columbus creations included “Sweet Southern Bouquet” perfume, Globe Flower Cough Syrup, Stillingia, “a blood purifier,” Indian Queen Hair Dye, Triplex Liver Pills, and Prescription 47-11 for rheumatism.

 

His tonic, French Wine of Coca, became Coca-Cola. After moving to Atlanta, Pemberton opened extensive labs there. He was the first Georgia chemist to analyze fertilizers as an aid to farmers; later Pemberton’s laboratories were incorporated into the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

 

NEHI & ROYAL CROWN COLA

19 10th Street

In 1905, a new cola drink was originated in the basement of the wholesale grocery business at this location, where Claud A. Hatcher, a pharmacist, began formulating beverages to please thirsty customers. His concoctions included Royal Crown Ginger Ale, Cream Soda and various Melo fruit drinks. As these products gained popularity, Hatcher created Union Bottling Works and in 1911 moved the business to the corner of 10th Street and 9th Avenue. Another flavor, Chero Cola, was introduced in 1912, and by 1925 there were several hundred franchised plants throughout the South and into the Midwest.

 

Nehi, a line of fruit-flavored soft drinks known to be “Knee High” great in flavor, was introduced in 1924 and quickly grew in popularity. Royal Crown Cola – soon to be nicknamed RC Cola – was launched in 1934, becoming the flagship brand. As the first to use blind taste-tests in publicity and movie celebrity endorsements such as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball and John Wayne, RC became an American classic. 

 

RC was the first cola produced in cans, the first local company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and first to produce a calorie-free cola, 

Diet Rite, in 1962. Today RC Cola continues to be sold in more than 

50 countries.

ERNEST & ROBERT WOODRUFF

1420 Second Avenue

Ernest Woodruff was born in Columbus in 1863. He first worked for 

his father George W. Woodruff, in his Columbus Empire Flour Mills, then as President of Joel Hurt’s Atlanta Streetcar Company, and as
co-founder and President of the Trust Company of Georgia.

 

In 1919, Ernest Woodruff created a syndicate to purchase Coca-Cola from the Candlers for $25 million. Although located in Atlanta, the reorganized Coca-Cola Company’s formative leaders were either Columbus natives or residents. Son of Ernest Woodruff and Emily Winship, Robert Winship Woodruff was born in 1889 at 1414 2nd Avenue. By 1923 the new Coca-Cola Company experienced falling syrup sales and declining stock prices. 

According to company lore, Board Chairman W.C. Bradley hired Robert Woodruff as President by convincing the two strong-willed Woodruffs they could work together. Robert made Coke the most recognized product in the world. During World War II he took the company 

international and guaranteed every GI fighting overseas a nickel Coke.

 

 

PEMBERTON & THE CONFEDERACY

Georgia Side of the 14th Street Pedestrian Bridge

John Pemberton joined the 3rd Georgia Cavalry in May 1862 and resigned in October that same year due to  “a chronic disease of the stomach,” his life-long malady. He wrote he could better serve his country as a pharmacist and chemist.

 

In July 1863, he joined the home guard and commanded a calvary unit at the Battle of Columbus, where he suffered a saber gash and pistol wound. Despite his injuries, within seven months he reopened his pharmacy and launched a large wholesales drug warehouse. 

He operated both until he left for Atlanta in 1869. 

DR. PEMBERTON AT HERITAGE PARK

703 Broadway

Over a century after his death, John S. Pemberton lives again in Heritage Park. After arriving in Columbus in the 1850s, Dr. Pemberton established several retail and wholesale drug businesses. In his Columbus drug store, he dispensed a great variety of sparkling soda water including the "French Wine of Coca" which some historians believe was the same formula as Coca-Cola.

In 1919, Ernest Woodruff, a Columbus native had moved to Atlanta, W.C. Bradley and others purchased control of Coca-Cola. Their heirs continue to contribute generously to the community. Coca-Cola Plaza also contains a special sculpture of a little girl holding a Coca-Cola bottle. The piece was commissioned in honor of the Coca-Cola Foundation. 

DR. PEMBERTON'S COUNTRY HOME

712 Broadway 

This house served as the residence of Dr. John S. Pemberton between 1860-1869. Dr. Pemberton enjoys international prestige as the originator of the formula for Coca-Cola. He moved into this house from the white frame cottage located at 11 Seventh Street. Originally located in the country four miles north of Columbus, this structure was moved to this site in 1977 to afford it the protection of the Nationally Registered Columbus Historic District. 

 

Research for the markers was generously provided by local historian, Dr. John S. Lupold. 

Phone: (706)-322-0756
 

Fax: (706)-576-4760
 

Email: hcfinc@historiccolumbus.com

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PHYSICAL ADDRESS

1440 Second Avenue
Columbus, Georgia 31901

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Historic Columbus
PO Box 5312
Columbus, Georgia 31906

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The Architectural Styles of Our Town: Columbus, GA by Historic Columbus is licensed under A Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Creative Commons License