Stunning Vintage Photos Show People Enjoying Coca Cola from the 20th Century

Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most famous beverages, was created in 1886 by Dr. John S. Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia. Initially, it was intended as a patent medicine. Pemberton’s recipe combined coca leaf extract and kola nut caffeine, giving the drink its distinctive name and flavor. The original formulation also contained cocaine, derived from the coca leaf, though in very small amounts. Coca-Cola was first sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta for five cents a glass.

Early Popularity and Marketing

The drink quickly gained popularity. Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, is credited with naming the beverage “Coca-Cola” and designing its iconic script. The early success of Coca-Cola was largely attributed to its taste and the belief in its medicinal properties. It was marketed as a tonic that could relieve headaches and act as a brain and nerve tonic. The beverage was advertised through coupons offering free samples and newspaper advertisements, a novel marketing strategy at the time.

Coca-Cola’s Formula Change

In 1904, due to health concerns and regulations, Coca-Cola’s formula was altered. The cocaine was removed, and caffeine remained as a key ingredient. This change marked a significant shift in the product’s composition, aligning it more closely with the soft drink it is known as today. Despite this change, Coca-Cola continued to be marketed for its uplifting qualities and refreshing taste.

Expansion and Bottling Innovation

Coca-Cola’s bottling system, introduced in the early 20th century, was a major innovation. Initially sold only at soda fountains, the introduction of bottle sales allowed Coca-Cola to be enjoyed at home and on the go, greatly expanding its reach and popularity. The distinctive contour bottle, introduced in 1915, became a symbol of the brand, designed to be recognizable even in the dark.

Coca-Cola During World War II

During World War II, Coca-Cola became a symbol of American life. The company took an active role in supporting the war effort, establishing bottling plants near military bases overseas to supply soldiers. This not only boosted morale among troops but also significantly expanded Coca-Cola’s global presence and popularity.

Post-War Global Expansion

After the war, Coca-Cola capitalized on its newfound international presence. The beverage became a symbol of American culture and lifestyle, with its marketing campaigns showcasing people from all walks of life enjoying the drink. Its global expansion was marked by the opening of bottling plants in different countries, making Coca-Cola a ubiquitous presence worldwide.

Coca-Cola in Modern Times

Today, Coca-Cola is enjoyed by people around the globe and has become more than just a soft drink; it’s a cultural icon. Its formula has remained largely unchanged since the removal of cocaine. The company has also introduced various flavor variations and products to adapt to changing tastes and health concerns, such as diet and zero sugar options. Coca-Cola’s enduring popularity is a testament to its taste, marketing strategies, and ability to adapt to different cultures and eras.

#1 Two sailors and their dates drinking Coca-Cola at a soda fountain, World War I era.

#2 A crossroads store, bar, “juke joint,” and gas station in Melrose, Louisiana, with various beverage signs.

#3 A housewife at a grocery counter with two six-packs of Coca-Cola, bread, and canned goods, circa 1935.

#4 African American and a white store owner on the porch of a country store, circa 1939.

#5 Actors Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck offered food and Coca-Cola at a game in Los Angeles, circa 1940.

#6 Smiling women in linen dresses with a glass of cola at a soda fountain, 1940s.

#7 Married actors Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz drinking Coca-Cola with actress Jinx Falkenburg, 1942.

#8 A merchant with his young son on the porch of his general store, date unspecified.

#9 Two Mexican girls at lunch during a festival in Tijuana, Mexico, March 15, 1950.

#10 Actress Rita Hayworth signing autographs at a Coca-Cola stand in Paris, June 10, 1950.

#11 Actress Carolyn Jones drinking Coca-Cola, USA, circa 1956.

#12 Wall of Coca-Cola cans in a supermarket in New Mexico, United States.

#13 Coca-Cola advertisement on a house facade in Macao.

#15 Unloading a Coca-Cola cargo at the port of Manaus, Brazil.

#16 Interior of a bar in New York, United States, date unspecified.

#17 Advertisement for Coca-Cola, featuring a soda fountain invitation.

#18 Three young boys cooling off with Coca-Cola on a stoop, undated.

#19 Migratory laborers outside a “juke joint” in Belle Glade, Florida, with various beverage signs.

#20 Natchez, Mississippi, featuring signs for Coca-Cola, Orange Crush, and Royal Crown cola.

#21 Gems Spa, a candy store in East Village, New York, advertising Coca-Cola.

#22 A driver in New Orleans in front of his Coca-Cola delivery truck, 1929.

#23 1930s street vendor in New York City selling sodas, including Pepsi-Cola.

#24 A counter girl serves Coca-Cola at a soda fountain, 1927.

#25 Workers loading crates of Coca-Cola onto a truck, circa 1930.

#26 Bottle inspection operations at a Coca-Cola plant in Southern California, 1933.

#27 Men inspecting bottles at a Coca-Cola plant in Los Angeles.

#28 A young man sipping Coca-Cola with a golf club outdoors, circa 1935.

#29 African American itinerant photographer in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1935.

#30 African American resident of Smithland, Kentucky, circa 1935.

#31 Man with an amputated leg at a shoe shine stand in Natchez, Mississippi, October 1935.

#32 Truck loaded with bottles leaving the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Connecticut on the product’s 50th anniversary, 1936.

#33 Convivial scene with Coca-Cola bottles at Pop and Ernie’s club, April 6, 1938.

#34 University of Minnesota students drinking Coca-Colas, circa 1940, in Minneapolis.

#35 View of Franklin Street in Natchez, Mississippi, circa 1940.

#36 Ernest Lawrence and Arthur Compton enjoying Coca-Colas, date unspecified.

#37 A smiling brunette woman holding a Coca-Cola bottle, 1940s.

#38 African American outside a barber shop in the Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1941.

#39 African American outside a storefront church and lunch wagon in the Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois, circa 1941.

#40 Shulman’s Market at N and Union Streets SW, Washington, D.C., with a 1931 Chevrolet, 1941.

#41 Ella Mae Lacey and Myrtle Thomas with Coca-Cola bottles in Lincoln Lunch Restaurant, Washington, Pennsylvania, March 1941.

#42 A soldier shopping in a general store in Caroline County, Virginia, June 1941.

#43 Seamen and customers enjoying Coca-Colas at a soft drink stand in the Marshall Islands, July 10, 1946.

#44 A babysitter drinking Coca-Cola while feeding an infant, Madison, New Jersey, 1947.

#45 African-American nurses drinking Coca-Cola, 1948.

#46 A Coca-Cola stall at Wembley Stadium during the London Olympic Games, August 1948.

#51 Coca-Cola worker at a bottling plant with a bottle, 1949.

#54 Coca-Cola worker at a bottling plant in Bern with a bottle, 1949.

#55 Woman sitting and drinking Coca-Cola in London, United Kingdom, 1950.

#56 1950s hot dog vendor in downtown Manhattan, New York, USA, selling Cokes.

#57 Couple sunbathing and drinking soda by a beach umbrella, 1950s.

#58 New York City petition for acting Mayor Vincent R. Impellitteri, 1950.

#59 Country singer Kitty Wells performing at the Grand Ole Opry, circa 1950, Nashville, Tennessee.

#60 Country singer Lew Childre performing at the Grand Ole Opry, circa 1950, Nashville, Tennessee.

#61 Coca-Cola crates stacked behind a bar with white-coated bartenders, location unspecified, circa 1950.

#63 Entrance of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company building, circa 1950.

#64 Teenage couple sharing a single bottle of soda with two straws, 1950s.

#65 Coca-Cola float at the Masters Parade, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, 1950s.

#66 Cyclists pedaling by trolleys advertising an American soft drink in Siam, May 26, 1950.

#67 Actress Rita Hayworth drinking Coca-Cola at a fair in Paris, June 10, 1950.

#68 Coca-Cola worker at a bottling plant in Zurich, 1950.

#69 Coca-Cola worker at a bottling plant in Zurich, 1950.

#70 Coca-Cola worker at a bottling plant in Zurich, 1950.

#71 Madame Bringue, an immigrant, happy to start a new life in Canada with her family, Ottawa, circa 1952.

#72 39th Tour De France arrival in Paris, 1952, with painted advertisements.

#73 Customers at a bar on Paraggi Beach near Portofino, Italy, August 1952.

#74 Margaret Lockwood chaperoning her daughter Julia in a TV program, November 1953.

#75 College students in an advertisement for Coca-Cola.

#78 Scenes in Hampstead, north London, September 24, 1954.

#79 Two men chatting at a café table with Coca-Cola bottles, 1959.

#83 Young Hawaiians, one drinking Coca-Cola, waiting to bat during a baseball game in Hawaii, circa 1955.

#84 Comedian Ernie Kovacs talking to a disc jockey in New York, circa 1955.

#85 Singer Elvis Presley drinking Coca-Cola backstage on Wink Martindale’s show in Memphis, June 16, 1956.

#86 Marilyn Monroe eating a hot dog with husband Arthur Miller in New York, 1957.

#87 Boxer Max Schmeling promoting Coca-Cola in Germany,1957.

#88 Young woman in a bikini drinking Coca-Cola, 1957.

#89 Nancy Sinatra holding a Coca-Cola bottle on “The Frank Sinatra Show,”, 1957.

#90 President Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoying Coca-Cola at an exhibition in New Delhi, India, 1959.

#91 Racing driver Alfonso Thiele with Coca-Cola after winning Monza Grand Prix, June 28, 1959.

#92 Fidel Castro eating a Chinese meal with chopsticks and drinking Coca-Cola, circa 1960.

#93 Woman pours Coca-Cola from a samovar at the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1960.

#94 Young girl buried in beach sand drinking a cold beverage, Australia, circa 1960.

#95 A young girl in an orange dress drinking Coca-Cola at Whisky A Go-Go Club in London, 1962.

#96 Smiling school girl drinking a carbonated beverage from a bottle, 1950s

#97 Girl drinking Coca-Cola from a bottle, date unspecified.

#98 Beatles John, Paul, and George enjoying Coca-Cola at a cafe in Paris1964.

#99 The Searchers band members at the Coventry Theatre show, 1964.

#100 Rolling Stones interviewed after arriving at Mascot Airport 1965.

#101 African American family watching the Selma To Montgomery Civil Rights March, March 25, 1965.

#102 Denver Bears Clinic officials sampling refreshments, 1965.

#103 Connie Francis recording with a bottle of Coca-Cola, New York, 1966.

#104 Denver Coca-Cola Bottling Co. enjoying a break with Denver Bears’ stars, 1968.

#106 CDU politician Jürgen Wohlrabe at a party in the ‘Cheetah’ disco, Kreuzberg, February 1975.

#107 Chancellor Willy Brandt relaxing with Coca-Cola in Florida, 1972.

#108 Boxer Muhammad Ali drinking Coca-Cola at a diner in Miami Beach, 1971.

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Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

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