“The Real Thing” first became a thing you could buy in a bottle 125 years ago today. Since then, Coke has grown into one of the world’s best known brands, with advertising to match.
Unsurprisingly, that advertising does not dwell on the drink’s origin as a morphine substitute. Colonel John Pemberton, a Confederate wounded in the U.S. Civil War, became addicted to the morphine used to address his injuries, and began a quest to identify a replacement. Pemberton’s French Wine Coca Nerve Tonic was created in Georgia, in 1885.
The drink, marketed as a medicine, was alcoholic. The following year, Georgia introduced prohibition to Pemberton’s district.
Undeterred, Pemberton developed a non-alcoholic version, called Coca-Cola. The cost was five cents a glass, and sales were around nine glasses a day. That first year the first Coke ad was published in the Atlanta Journal. In March 1894, the first bottled Coke was produced.
Fast-forward to today, and sales have increased just a little—to around 1.9 billion bottles daily. Below, a look back at some of Coke’s early advertising posters.