Victorian Coca-Cola Gains Popularity…and Critics (Cocaine In My Soda Water?)

Victorian Coca-Cola Gains Popularity…and Critics (Cocaine In My Soda Water?)

RAPID INCREASE IN CONSUMPTION; WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF IT

In my recent post, I covered the dramatic rise in popularity that Victorian Coca-Cola gained in its early years. Popularity skyrocketed: “Atlanta enthusiasm has been contagious and boundless, and is rapidly spreading all over the country.” (see the snip #1, immediately below, from a longer article titled More of Coca-Cola, from 1891.)

Snip #1 from a longer article titled More of Coca-Cola. What Dr. Alexander and Dr. Baird Say. A Talk with Mr. Candler–Rapid Increase of Consumption–Nearly Half a Million Glasses in Atlanta. Published in The Atlanta Constitution of Atlanta, Georgia, on June 21, 1891.

Snip #2 from a longer article titled More of Coca-Cola. What Dr. Alexander and Dr. Baird Say. A Talk with Mr. Candler–Rapid Increase of Consumption–Nearly Half a Million Glasses in Atlanta. Published in The Atlanta Constitution of Atlanta, Georgia, on June 21, 1891.

Snip #3 from a longer article titled More of Coca-Cola. What Dr. Alexander and Dr. Baird Say. A Talk with Mr. Candler–Rapid Increase of Consumption–Nearly Half a Million Glasses in Atlanta. Published in The Atlanta Constitution of Atlanta, Georgia, on June 21, 1891.

Snip #4 of a longer article titled More of Coca-Cola. What Dr. Alexander and Dr. Baird Say. A Talk with Mr. Candler–Rapid Increase of Consumption–Nearly Half a Million Glasses in Atlanta. Published in The Atlanta Constitution of Atlanta, Georgia, on June 21, 1891.

…AND COCAINE?

Admission of cocaine in earliest formulas recognized as a potential problem quite early–at least by 1891. The following article, transcribed from The Abbeville Press and Banner of Abbeville, South Carolina, on Wednesday, July 1, 1891:

IT LOOKS LIKE A DANGEROUS DRINK.

Read and Be Your Own Judge… A Damaging Admission… A Contradectary [sic] Statement

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Last week the statement was made that Messrs. Lowry & Starr had discontinued the sale of “coca-cola” until they could investigate the truth of an imputation that the beverage contained cocaine in such quantities as to insiduously [sic] bring on the dreadful cocaine habit. They have written to the manufacturer, Mr. Asa D. Candler, of Atlanta, and he replies as follows:

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Editor Constitution: There appears in the columns of your paper this morning a notice of “coca-cola,” a preparation which I have been manufacturing and selling largely in this and other communities for the past three years, as a soda fountain beverage, to the principal dealers, who have dispensed it to the very best people in the community which they serve. For nearly twenty years I have lived in Atlanta and been known prominently as a druggist. Among the citizens of this place I think I have a great many friends to whom I can refer for endorsement: that I have endeavored to live above reproach, never manifesting a desire to build up my own interests at the expense of theirs.

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As to coca-cola, if your “thoughtful citizen” will find one person in all this country who is a cocaine user by reason of having drank coca-cola, then I plead guilty to their charges. In a pamphlet which I issue and distribute at much expense, I plainly state that among a great many other things which enter into its composition we use cocaine leaves. I have no objection to stating just here that one gallon of coa-cola syrup, which makes 128 glasses, as dispensed from the soda fountains, contains one-half ounce of green coca leaves, which are treated with hot water.

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If your thoughtful citizen and prominent physician have got as much sense as they lack regard for correct speaking, they can readily see that a gallon of this syrup would not produce any decided effects attributable to cocaine.

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Without any investigation as to who is using coca-cola, I feel confident that I can truthfully say that every prominent minister, a number of our most skilled physicians, together with nine-tenth of the business men, including all professions, are and have been for at least three years constant patrons of coca-cola. Because a man once tries it and finds it to be a prompt restorer  of his energies and goes back and gets it again and again, should not be an argument against its use any more than against the recall of our family physician who restores to life and health the members of our family. That some people use too much of it is not its fault or mine, but I have yet to hear of a single case having been injured thereby. The popularity of the beverage is caused as much by judicious advertising that has been done for it by its own genuine merits.

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We trust that as you have doubtless carelessly permitted the attack to be made, you will as carefully insert this plain statement on my side of the case.

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Respectfully,

Asa D. Candler.

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Mr. Candler, in a printed circular which he sent to the Press and Banner says:

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“The sales of the leading fountains in Atlanta during the year 1890, amounted to $22,400.00 for Coca-Cola alone–equal to 448,000 drinks. This trade was almost wholly due to the continual growth of popularity, and was helped by very little advertising of any kind.”

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How do you think that statement tallies with this:

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“The popularity of the beverage is caused as much by judicious advertising that has been done for it, as by its own genuine merits.”

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What Is Coca-Cola?

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In the Eighth Edition of the British Encyclopaedia, Vol. 7, page 46, we find the following statement in regard to Coca, one ingredient of the drink, Coca-Cola: “Coca, a stimulant narcotic largely used as a masticatory [sic] by the Peruvians, is the dried leaf of Erythroxyian Coca, in combination with a certain alkaline substance called Ilipta. The habitual indulgencee [sic] in this drug is attended with remarkable effects on the human system, which are said to not be very dissimilar to those produced by the excessive use of opium.”

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Again, in Vol. 17, page 472, we find:

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“The Coca plant (Erythoxylan Coca) is from 6 to 8 feet in length, and somewhat resembles a black thorn in its humerous [sic] small white blossoms and the lively green color of its leaves. The latter are gathered and carefully dried, and then finely packed in woolen sacks and covered with sand. The coca leaf is to the Indian of the interior a necessary of life. Each individual carries a leathern pouch containing a supply of coca leaves, and a small flask gourd filled with pulverized unslaked [sic] lime. Three or four times a day, or oftener, he suspends his labor to chaccha [sic] or masticate his coca, to which a slight admixture of the powdered lime gives a relish, and is said to counteract the natural tendency of the coca to give use to visceral obstructions. Deleterious and dire results are commonly attributed to the use of this narcotic; and Dr. Poeppig, in his travels in Chili [sic] and Peru, & c., draws a melancholy picture of the dreadful effects of this insinuating drug, and of the disease to which it gives rise. It is asserted, however, by those best able to judge that these effects are vastly overrated, and some even maintain that, when used in moderation, it may be even conducive to health.”

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~ Transcription of article titled It Looks Like a Dangerous Drink, originally published in The Abbeville Press And Banner of Abbeville, South Carolina, on July 1, 1891. A digital snip of the newspaper from which the article was transcribed follows.

It Looks Like a Dangerous Drink, as published in The Abbeville Press and Banner of Abbeville, South Carolina, on July 1, 1891. As this vintage newspaper’s digital scan was difficult to read, I carefully transcribed the article, word-for-word, with all original spellings and punctuation; the only emphasis was to bold the year of publication in the citation. No emphasis was added within the quotation of the article (transcription). This snip is not meant to be large enough to read.

To read this article in full, visit this special clip at Newspapers.com.

Up Next!

Cocaine in Victorian Coca-Cola: Going… Going… Gone?

Copyright © 2017 Kristin Holt LC

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