John Stith Pemberton (July 8, 1831 – August 16, 1888) was an American pharmacist, and is best known for being the founder of Coca-Cola.
Pemberton was born July 8, 1831, in Knoxville, Georgia, and spent most of his childhood in Rome, Georgia. His parents were James C. Pemberton and Martha L. Gant. He entered the Reform Medical College of Georgia in Macon, and in 1850, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed to practice pharmacy. Shortly thereafter, he met Ann Eliza Clifford Lewis of Columbus, Georgia, known to her friends as "Cliff", who had been a student at the Wesleyan College in Macon. They were married in Columbus in 1853. Their only child, Charles Ney Pemberton, was born in 1854. They lived in the Pemberton House in Columbus.
During the American Civil War, Pemberton served in the Third Cavalry Battalion of the Georgia State Guard, which was at that time a component of the Confederate army. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In April 1865, Pemberton sustained a saber wound to the chest during the Battle of Columbus. He soon became addicted to themorphine used to ease his pain.
In 1866, seeking a cure for his addiction, he began to experiment with painkillers that would serve as opium-free alternatives to morphine. His first recipe was "Dr. Tuggle's Compound Syrup of Globe Flower", in which the active ingredient was derived from the buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)", a toxic plant which is common in Georgia. He next began experimenting with cocaand coca wines, eventually creating a recipe which contained extracts of kola nut and damiana, which he called Pemberton's French Wine Coca.
According to Coca-Cola historian, Phil Mooney, Pemberton's world-famous soda was "created in Columbus, Georgia and carried to Atlanta". With public concern about the drug addiction, depression, and alcoholism among war veterans, and "neurasthenia", as well as among "highly-strung" Southern women, Pemberton's medicine was advertised as particularly beneficial for "ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration".
In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton found himself forced to produce a non-alcoholic alternative to his French Wine Coca. Pemberton relied on Atlanta drugstore owner-proprietor Willis E. Venable to test, and help him perfect, the recipe for the beverage, which he formulated by trial and error. With Venable's assistance, Pemberton worked out a set of directions for its preparation that eventually included blending the base syrup with carbonated water by accident when trying to make another glass. Pemberton decided then to sell it as a fountain drink rather than a medicine. Frank Mason Robinson came up with the name "Coca-Cola" for the alliterative sound, which was popular among other wine medicines of the time. Although the name quite clearly refers to the two main ingredients, the controversy over itscocaine content would later prompt The Coca-Cola Company to state that the name was "meaningless but fanciful". Robinson also hand wrote the Spencerian script on the bottles and ads. Pemberton made many health claims for his product, touting it as a "valuable brain tonic" that would cure headaches, relieve exhaustion and calm nerves, and marketed it as "delicious, refreshing, pure joy, exhilarating", and "invigorating".
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