Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum

Vicksburg Foundation for
Historic Preservation

1107 Washington Street
Vicksburg, MS  39183

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Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: I thought Coca-Cola was created in Atlanta, Georgia. Why do you say it was first bottled in Vicksburg?

A: It was created in Atlanta by Dr. John S. Pemberton in 1886 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, “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 dispensed.

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 Peppermint.

Q: Did Coca-Cola really contain cocaine at one time?

A: According to “Wikipedia”, When launched, Coca-Cola's two key ingredients were
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 coca flavoring.

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

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. Enjoy!

Q: How do I schedule a field trip or group visit to the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum

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.

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of The Coca-Cola Company