It was well-known in Victorian times that thinking too much was a health hazard for women. What a relief, then, that John Pemberton came to the rescue of the Weaker Sex with his new Miracle Brew that did indeed “Relieve the Fatigue that comes…from Over-thinking” as promised in the advertisement below.
During the late to mid-19th century, medicines promising to cure multiple ailments from “foul breath,” “irregularities incidental to women” and everything in between proliferated. Many times these bogus medicines were mixed with ice-cold carbonated water and served as cheaper and more refreshing alternatives.
In the spring of 1886, John Stith Pemberton, a Confederate army veteran, had created one of the most elusive and important recipes of all time. This Georgian native mixed sugar, water, kola nut extracts, coca leaf extract, and other secret ingredients into a syrupy concoction that would become the base of the world’s most prolific soft drink the world has ever known. Mixed with soda water, the drink was extremely powerful with cocaine from the coca extract and four times the amount of caffeine of the modern syrup mix. The original recipe of 1886 has since been lost in time. Pemberton’s business partner and Union army veteran, Frank Robinson decided to name the new beverage Coca-Cola. The name derived from its initial selling point: “containing the properties of the wonderful Coca Plant and the famous Cola nuts.” At the time of the drink’s inception, cocaine was a commonly used substance, but was later near-completely eliminated in 1903. [Source]
…In the 1880s and 90s, the company utilized lithographs of the young, beautiful, and wealthy. Giving the impression that anyone who was willing to spend a measly five cents could live like the rich for the time it took to enjoy a glass of Coca-Cola. [ibid]
Yes, even if you couldn’t afford the type of shopping trips of the beautiful and wealthy young ladies shown above, you could window-shop-‘til-you-dropped, and then stop by the soda fountain to be “revived and sustained”–and imagine yourself chatting over your glass of Coca Cola with the Rockefellers and Carnegies…before going home to your tenement!
At first the models for the Coke ads were anonymous beautiful and wealthy young ladies. But it didn’t take long for the Coca-Cola company to realize the value of celebrity endorsements.
Singer Hilda Clark became the first celebrity model for The Coca-Cola Company. Also known as the First Coca-Cola Girl, Hilda’s image was used on cardboard signs, tin trays, trade cards, bookmarks, drink tickets, and calendars from 1899 to 1903. [Source]
The many moods of Hilda Clark, from prim and proper to a tad sultry graced Coke ads for several years.
Coke calendars became wildly popular around the turn of the century, and Hilda loaned her pretty face and poofy hair to those too.
I don’t know what happened to Hilda, but by 1904 she was replaced by a more regal celebrity.
From 1904 to 1905, Lillian Nordica became the new face of Coca-Cola. Born Lillian Norton in 1857 in Farmington, Maine, Madame Nordica was also a singer who had performed with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, as well as in many major musical venues in Western Europe and Russia. Early calendars and other promotional items featuring the divas of the time not only launched the popular Coca-Cola Girls advertising platform but Clark and Nordica items had also become some of the greatest hits with vintage Coca-Cola collectors over the years. [ibid]
It would be almost 30 years later before Coke introduced the ultimate celebrity endorser, shown here in 1932 in his very first appearance in a Coke ad.