Columbus natives have had a long-standing disagreement with folks in Atlanta over the provenance of Coca-Cola.
Many here say that it was created in Columbus and then taken to Atlanta by its creator, Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist who practiced here until he moved to the big city. Many folks in Atlanta scoff at that and say Pemberton came up with the formula in his Atlanta lab, which was within walking distance from Jacobs’ Pharmacy on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta. Jacobs’, it is said, was where the first glass of Coke was sold for a nickel in 1886.
Now these dueling histories will each be cast in bronze (or some metal) and set in concrete.
On Monday, the Georgia Historical Society will unveil a new historical marker recognizing Atlanta as the birthplace of Coca-Cola. The marker will be erected on Marietta Street at the site of Jacobs' Pharmacy.
Then less than a month later, on June 3, the Historic Columbus Foundation will dedicate a series of seven historic markers celebrating Columbus’ storied soft drink history.
They deal, of course, extensively with Pemberton’s history here, although they also recognize the importance of R.C. Cola and Nehi in Columbus.
After the Civil War, Pemberton was a partner in several drug store enterprises and related laboratories. It was in one of those labs where he worked on tonics and potions and what would become soft drinks. One of those was called French Wine of Coca, which would later become Coca-Cola.
The research for the markers was provided by retired history professor and noted local historian John Lupold, who should know something about Pemberton because he lives in his old house in the Historic District.
So I called John and asked him if anyone had concretely determined the proper birthplace of Coca-Cola. He told me that the foremost authority on such things, Phil Mooney, who is the retired Coca-Cola Co. archivist, says the formula for Coke was developed in Columbus and then taken to Atlanta.
There’s no doubt the international company that Coke became is a product of Atlanta, but not only did the formula come from here, but so did much of the company’s early capital and leadership in the form of W.C. Bradley himself. It’s a family relationship that endures to this day.
Mike Owen: 706-571-8570, @mikeowenle