Kathryn Rutherford Blog Header

Kathryn Rutherford Blog Header

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Things Go Better With COKE

"Things Go Better With Coke"
1963 Coca-Cola Product Advertising Slogan

    The first Coca-Cola recipe was formulated in the mid-eighteen hundreds at the Eagle Drug and Chemical Company, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia by John Pemberton, originally as a coca wine called Pemberton's French Wine Cocoa.
    In 1886, when the City of Atlanta and surrounding Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a non-alcoholic version of the French Wine Cola.
    The first sales were at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886.  It was initially sold for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at that time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health.  About nine servings of the soft drink were sold each day and sales for that first year added up to a total of about fifty-dollars.  The ironic thing about sales was that it had cost John Pemberton over seventy dollars in expenses to produce the product.  The first year of Coca-Cola sales were, for the times, at a huge loss.
    Until 1905, Coke concentrate, or Coke syrup, was marketed and sold as a patented over-the-counter medical tonic containing extracts of cocaine as well as the caffeine-rich kola nut.  The product was touted as a remedy for nausea or mildly upset stomach.  Pemberton claimed it cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and.....oh, wow.....impotence.  The product could just take care of it all!
    The original 1886 advertising slogan was a simple "Drink Coca-Cola".  Subsequent years produced many of the most well remembered slogans and ad campaigns as any product ever produced.
    Isn't this interesting?  Certainly, but, what does an international passion with a soft drink have to do with any possible subject that could be posted here?  An even better question:  why is there an image of the Fayette, Alabama Courthouse shown in conjunction with the all too famous beverage? 
    The answer to all these questions goes back to a customer's phone call to the Heirloom Art Studio wayyyyy back in 1999.
    In the fall of that year I received a phone call from an Alabama gentleman that had been on the hunt for a photographic restoration artist and conservator that had the skills he needed to help with a very historic project. 
    It seemed the man had recently purchased an early nineteen hundreds home and made the most fabulous discovery inside it that would require my expertise and special handling. 
    While searching the attic of his new home, the gentleman had discovered what he thought were broken and scratched shards of glass between the support beams of the attic's roof.  Collecting the fogged and dusty pieces of glass from their long time resting place he discovered, upon closer inspection, that there seemed to be blackened images of people, places and buildings upon one side of the glass. 
    Spreading the damaged glass out under lit conditions, the pieces revealed a collection of 8"x10" glass negatives in various states of scratched or broken condition.  Of particularly historic importance were two of the negatives which led him to seek out my services as one of the remaining persons still printing glass negatives in the darkroom.
    To the man's eye, these particular negatives appeared to be the 1911 dedication of the Fayette, Alabama Courthouse.  The year 2000 approach of the next Millennium was expected to bring a re-dedication of the City's Historic Courthouse.  If proven to be, in fact, authentic images of the original dedication, the gentleman wished to have the negatives printed and restored for presentation to the City of Fayette upon their upcoming celebration of the building and the City. 
    After giving explicit instructions as to how to pack and ship the negatives to my Studio, I hit the research trail to see what I could discover about the original construction of the Courthouse.
    It seemed that this was the second Courthouse to be built in Fayette, a City named after the Marquis de LaFayette, who helped George Washington fight in the American Revolution.  The first Courthouse, as well as most of the City, succumbed to a devastating fire in March 1911.  The following newspaper accounts were found in The Montgomery Advertiser as well as a Birmingham, Alabama Newspaper.

    MANY BUILDING BURNED-Among Those Destroyed Were The New Court House and Jail, New Hotel, Bank Building, Cotton Warehouse and the Masonic Temple.

    Birmingham, Ala., Mar. 24.-Considerable interest was taken in the fire that raged for several hours this morning at Fayette, eighty miles west of here on the Southern Railway, in the heart of the natural gas fields, because of close interests held by Birmingham people in that section and the trade that comes this way.
    The fire started in the drug store of Peters and Young and it spread rapidly from building to building. Three hundred fifty bales of cotton, belonging to one firm alone, were destroyed, besides much other cotton.
    The estimate made this afternoon of the loss by the fire is given at more than $500,000, with less than $150,000 insurance.
    The buildings destroyed included the $40,000 court house and jail, the new hotel, the bank building, Peters and Young’s drug store, Jones Brothers, general merchandise; Fayette Banner office, Masonic Temple, (two stories); Miss Emma Shepherd, millinery store; W. Anderson, jewelry repair store; Smith, Dodson and Company, general merchandise; Walker Bros. & Co., general merchandise; J.R. Robinson, grocery; E. Rose & Co., general merchandise; Knuckles & Walker, general merchandise; Berry Brothers, grocery, City Restaurant; G.T. Hassie & Co., general merchandise; W.M. Cannon, general merchandise; Robertson & Dodd, general merchandise, S.J. Cannon, drug store; Propst Bros., hardware and furniture; Propst Bros., (2-story brick), general merchandise; Farmer’s Warehouse; S.J. Sanders, livery stable; Jeffries Livery stables; eight residences and other buildings.
    Fayette, because of the discoveries of natural gas within a mile and half of the town, has been on a big boom and much building was under way while the population has been on a steady increase. The town is said to have a population of nearly 2,600.
    A report reached Birmingham this morning that the fire started from someone having a lighted match near a leaking gas pipe.
    The people of Fayette exerted every effort to check the blaze, but in vain. The fire raged on the main thoroughfare of the town down Temple Avenue.
    Fayette was established during the Civil War.

    The negatives in question arrived at the Studio and research and dating absolutely confirmed that they were taken on the very day the Fayette, Alabama Courthouse was rebuilt.  Although the recorder of the event has still to be determined, the fabulous images showed the dedication day ceremonies as they transpired throughout the day.
    Oh, how I wish that you could all see these photographs up close and in person.  The town folk, clothing, children playing, horse and buggy in one image but automobile in the next...........and so forth.  The closeup activity is history in itself, although I have yet to figure out why one well dressed woman carries a suitcase up the front walk.  Is she heading out of town after the ceremony or is she bringing a wicker basket with the picnic lunch?  There is no way to tell.
    While processing and perusing through closeups of the crowd, however, two distinct facts did became abundantly clear.
    First, one cannot help but notice that although everyone in the crowd has turned out in their Sunday best and appears equally attired, the crowd is most definitely segregated.  We are, after all, recording an event taking place in the American South, in 1911. 
    Where the white residents mingle throughout the front and center of the lawn, the black attendees stand in groups to the right and left of the Courthouse.  One close up detail can be seen below. There is even one person sitting in the second from the left, lower window that could possibly also be black. 

    As a Canadian Citizen, born and raised near where many Civil War Slaves considered the end of their Underground Railway, I can only stare at these negatives and handle their recorded history with both shock and awe.  My historically different upbringing has me holding these original pieces of the past with honour and great respect for American History as well as an understanding yet heartbreak for the trials and tribulations of the struggles of its Southern People. 
    The second, most unique, discovery in these images is that, regardless of the solemnity of the event...................................THINGS REALLY DO GO BETTER WITH COKE!!!!

     Positioned prominently on the lawn of the Courthouse, at the corner of the main roadway and the walk to the Courthouse entrance is the Coke Booth.  The banner hung around the stall says:  Drink a Bottle of Coca-Cola. 
    My husband and I have worked many an hour at charity events operating the Coke booths that the Coca-Cola Company now provides and delivers on wheels with their self-contained, hitched trailers, but, I swear, after so many hours in the darkroom, I honestly thought I was seeing things.  I expect to see the ever present bold red Coke signage in contemporary photographs, but while working with such an importantly historic set of negatives I never dreamed of finding this little piece of accompanying humour and historic record captured along side the first historical intent.
    Coca-Cola was first sold in bottles on March 12, 1894.   I checked the company's records for recorded advertising slogans and did not find the one captured in our 1911 negatives.  Perhaps the company will now have to amend their history to claim that Alabama vendors had their own advertising slogans.
    It is a wonderfully warm and sunny Sunday and I am about to head outdoors to work in the gardens and spruce up the grounds for spring.  But first, I believe it is time for a break and a cold drink. Perhaps you will also feel the same and join me. 
            Things go better with Coke.  Drink a Bottle of Coca-Cola.
    By the way, the Fayette, Alabama Courthouse negatives were successfully printed, evidence of the broken pieces and the thousands of scratches were removed and enlargements of both of the images were delivered to the Courthouse in time for the year 2000 re-dedication and Millennium Celebrations of the City of Fayette.  I have no way of confirming that a Coke booth was present at this second prestigious occasion. 

No comments:

Post a Comment