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I thought Coca-Cola was created in Atlanta, Georgia. Why do you say it was
first bottled in Vicksburg?cocaine
(benzoylmethyl ecgonine) and caffeine.
The cocaine was derived from the coca
leaf and the caffeine from kola
nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the
"K" in Kola was replaced with a "C" for marketing
purposes). Pemberton called for five ounces
of coca leaf per gallon of syrup, a significant dose; in 1891, Candler
claimed his formula (altered extensively from Pemberton's original)
contained only a tenth of this amount. Coca-Cola did once contain an
estimated nine milligrams
of cocaine per glass, but in 1903 it was removed. Coca-Cola still contains
A: It was created in Atlanta by Dr. John S. Pemberton in 1866 but
sold only as a fountain drink until 1894 when Joseph Biedenharn thought of
bottling Coke in the same manner he had been bottling soda water and
offering it for sale to those who could not always make it to town to
visit one of his three soda fountains!
Q: I have heard other names associated with being the first bottlers of
Coca-Cola like Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead of Chattanooga, TN.
A: Benjamin Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead are generally credited with
being the first franchised bottlers of Coca-Cola. They were given
the rights to bottle Coke by Asa Candler in 1899 for a reported fee of $1.
As testified to by the “Chronicle of Coca-Cola” at
www.thecoca-colacompany.com, “in 1894, in Vicksburg, Mississippi,
Joseph A. Biedenharn was so impressed by the growing demand for Coca-Cola
at his soda fountain that he installed bottling machinery in the rear of
his store and began to sell cases of Coca-Cola to farms and lumber camps
up and down the Mississippi River. He was the first bottler of Coca-Cola.”
Q: So if the first Coca-Cola was bottled in Vicksburg, was it in
the very same building as the Museum located is today?
A: Yes. The Museum building located at 1107 (then 218-220) Washington
Street was built in 1890 by the Biedenharn family to house a shoe store on
one side and Joseph Biedenharn’s wholesale and retail confectionary
store on the other side. A feature of Joe’s candy operation was a soda
fountain which provided a variety of cold soda fountain drinks to
customers. As the story goes, “Uncle Joe,” wanted to provide Coca-Cola
to his customers in the county in the same manner he sold other bottled
“flavored” and “unflavored” soda drinks to them. After sending one
of the first cases of “bottled” Coca-Cola to Asa Candler in Atlanta,
who by that time had complete control of Coca-Cola, Mr. Candler commented
to Joseph Biedenharn that, “it was fine.” From that, the Biedenharn
family’s interest in Coca-cola grew to hold the bottling rights in
Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.
Q: I understand that there is a later Coca-Cola bottling plant at 2133
Washington Street. Is Coke still bottled there?
A: No. The Vicksburg bottling plant at 2144 Washington Street closed its
doors in the early 1990s. At present, fountain and bottled Cokes are
distributed to Vicksburg from Jackson, Mississippi.
Q: How was Coca-Cola dispensed at the soda fountain?
A: The marble soda fountain at the Museum is an excellent example of a
turn of the century soda fountain. It was operated by a “soda jerk,”
so named because he would “jerk” on the one of the various levers or
valves on the fountain to dispense Coca-Cola or one of the other flavors
offered and the valve to dispense soda water. Usually, a “mixture” was
served in glasses, often with a metal holder supporting the glass. Large
blocks of ice were used to cool the contents of the fountain before it was
Q: What were some of the other flavors of cold sodas that were available
from soda fountains at about the time Coke was first bottled?
A: There was a great variety of soda drinks available at the time,
literally hundreds of flavors, as flavors were sold wholesale in syrup
form by many distributors and mixed with soda water or water at the
fountain. An illustration is the 1900s era soda fountain that is on
display in the Museum. Syrup was poured into tilt-out “drawers” or
containers that were labeled on their outside. The fountain on display
dispensed Rose, Claret, Grape, Coca-Cola, Peach, Orgeat, Sasaparilla and
Q: Did Coca-Cola really contain cocaine at one time?
A: According to “Wikipedia”, When launched, Coca-Cola's two key
Q: I see that the name “Biedenharn Candy Co.” is painted across the
front of the building. Why is it called that?
A: Herman and Henry Biedenharn founded and operated a confectionary
business in Vicksburg which was eventually taken over by Joseph
Biedenharn, one of Herman’s sons. In 1890, the building which houses the
Bienharn Coca-Cola Museum was built and operated as a shoe store on one
side and as Joe’s wholesale candy company on the other side. When the
building was restored in 1979, the name ‘Biedenharn Candy Company” as
it appeared on the original building’s façade was repainted. An
assortment of packaged candies such as Gummy Bears, rock candy and old
fashioned candy sticks are available in the gift shop. Unfortunately, fine
confectionaries and layer cakes have not been make here since the 1940s
when sugar was rationed during the War!
Q: Why does the Museum charge an admission fee?
A: The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum is owned and operated by a Vicksburg
non-profit historic preservation group, the Vicksburg Foundation for
Historic Preservation, as a means of helping fund the Foundation’s
historic preservation programs and to help offset the actual operating
costs associated with the museum such as staff, utilities, insurance and
maintenance of the facilities and exhibits. If you enjoy your visit to the
Museum and want to help support the work of the Foundation, please visit http://www.preservevicksburg.org/
Q: Does the Museum purchase memorabilia for its collection?
A: From time to time, the Museum will purchase a piece to add to its
exhibits. However, most of the Museum’s collection was donated rather
than purchased. The owner/operator of the Museum is a 501(3)
not-for-profit organization and can provide appropriate documentation to
evidence donations which can be used as a deduction on your taxes. If you
have something that you would like us to see, please email a photograph(s)
and detailed description to us.
Q: Does the Museum ever sell original Coca-cola items?
A: No, not from the items that are exhibited in the Museum. However, from
time to time, the Museum offers some original items that are duplicates of
items in the Museum such as original bottles, wooden Coca-Cola crates and
other items. The Museum also operates a gift shop that sells an extensive
line of modern Coca-Cola memorabilia. The Museum’s online gift shop is
presently under construction and will soon be available!
Q: How does one tour the Museum?
A: A tour of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum is a self-guided tour that
begins with the history of the creation of Coca-Cola and of Joseph A.
Biedenharn’s first bottling of Coca-Cola in Vicksburg, period
photographs of bottling plants in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and other
places, a display of reproductions of some of the first bottling equipment
used in Vicksburg, methods of bottling and distribution of Coca-Cola,
advertising memorabilia throughout the life of Coca-Cola, early Coca-Cola
print ads, and a reproduction of an 1890s soda fountain room with period
soda fountain and seating. The tour will circle back to the gift shop
which features modern Coca-Cola memorabilia for sale, unique items such as
prints of the Vicksburg riverfront murals, playing cards featuring
historic Vicksburg buildings and historic postcards of the Vicksburg
National Military Park as well as ice cream, Coca-Cola and Coke floats.
Q: How do I schedule a field trip or group visit to the Biedenharn
A: School groups, camps, and other groups wanting to schedule field trips
to the Biedenharn should call the Museum at 601-638-6514 to discuss
scheduling your visit and group rates.