John Pemberton

By: Hayat Abdullahi

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Early Life

John Stith Pemberton was born on January 8, 1831, in the city of Knoxville in Crawford County Georgia. He attended school in nearby Rome where his family had previously lived for 30 years.

Early Medical Career

He studied medicine and pharmacy at the Reform Medical College of Georgia in Macon, and in 1850, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed to practice on Thomsonian Principles. He practiced medicine and surgery first in Rome and then in Columbus.Some time before the Civil War , he acquired a graduate degree in pharmacy, but the exact date and place are unknown.

About Thomsonian Principles

The Thomosonian System of Medicine was popularized around the time of Pemberton's birth. It appealed to the some as a cure that seemed less toxic than than the generally accepted practices. It stemmed by the creator's Samuel Thomson belief that disease should be treated by restoring the body's "natural heat." the methods for doing this included steam baths, cayenne pepper, laxatives, and administration of the puke weed to induce vomiting. But overall it was regarded with suspicion by general masses, and more mainstream doctors.

Later Medical Career

The manufacturing business of J. S. Pemberton and the Company of Columbus,established in 1860, was unique compared to what the South was used to.Pemberton's company was said to manufacture all the pharmaceutical and chemical preparations used in the arts and sciences. Pemberton soon became a succesful buisness man in charge of many medicinal charges.
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The Coca Cola Company

A few years before Coca-Cola began its spectacular rise to international stardom, a drink known as Pemberton's French Wine Coca was extremely popular in Atlanta, and quickly its fame spread throughout the Southeast.Pemberton once admitted that his coca and kola beverage was based on Vin Mariani, a French formula perfected by Mariani and Company of Paris. In 1886 the city of Atlanta introduced prohibition, which, among other things, forbade the sale of wine. Pemberton decided to make another version of his popular drink. He dropped the reference to wine in the name of the beverage, substituted sugar syrup for the wine, and coined the name "Coca-Cola" to identify his formula. From that day on the iconic name was born, and he would call Coca-Cola the ideal temperance drink, both on the label and in advertising.

Realizing that he needed financial backing to market this nonalcoholic version of French Wine Coca on a large scale,, he put his son Charles in charge of manufacturing Coca-Cola, and after prohibition ended in 1887, he started producing French Wine Coca again, and sold his practices and drug stores to spend his time working on his beverages.


John Pemberton died at age 57 in August 1888, poor, sick, addicted to morphine, and a victim of stomach cancer. His gravemarker is engraved with symbols showing his Confederate military service and his pride in being a Freemason. On the day of Pemberton's funeral, Atlanta druggists closed their stores and attended the services out of respect. On that day, not one drop of Coca-Cola was dispensed in the entire city. The Atlanta newspapers called him "the oldest druggist of Atlanta and one of her best known citizens."

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King, Monroe M. "John Stith Pemberton (1831-1888)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 10 December 2013. Web. 30 March 2014.