Morphine, Santa Claus, And Nazis: The Secret History Of Coca-Cola

Published April 6, 2016
Updated May 30, 2018
Published April 6, 2016
Updated May 30, 2018

From morphine to Santa Claus to Nazis, this Coca-Cola history lesson will reveal how one sugary drink created the America we know today.

Coca Cola History

Afghan refugee children stand in front of a Coca-Cola sign in northwest Pakistan. Image Source: HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images

On the evening of April 16, 1865, Union and Confederate cavalry clashed over a bridge in Columbus, Georgia, in what was arguably the last battle of the U. S. Civil War. During the fight, a Confederate colonel named John Pemberton took a slashing saber wound to the chest and had to be carried away from the fight.

Believe it or not, this set of facts is the basis for why, today, you clip coupons before a shopping trip, why every vertical surface in the world is plastered with advertisements, and why children believe in Santa Claus.

Coca-Cola, the brand John Pemberton went on to found, has taken over the world. Interbrand, the authority on brand names and their value, lists Coca-Cola as the world’s third most valuable brand (behind Apple and Google). Its total assets equal about $90 billion (significantly more than Pepsi and Nike combined).

Moreover, Coca-Cola has grown into one of a select few brands that practically act as overseas ambassadors of the United States itself. Coca-Cola is so closely associated with American culture that the country’s cultural imperialism if often referred to as “Coca-Colonization.”

But what made Coca-Cola the symbol of America that it is today? Where did it start, how did it grow, and why is its logo probably more well-known than the American flag in all but two countries (Cuba and North Korea) on Earth today? It all started with that stroke of the saber that so nearly killed John Pemberton…

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.