25 May 2012

Medicinal Cocaine Controversy

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts

Asa Candler consolidated his claim to Coca-Cola two weeks after Pemberton’s death, on August 30, 1888. He bought the remaining interest through a tangled chain of titles. Throughout 1889, without much advertising, Candler saw sales of Coca-Cola mushroom. The combination of cocaine and caffeine induced repeated calls for Coca-Cola and the first indication of habitual users, soon labeled “Coca-Cola fiends.”

Candler’s Coca-Cola had phenomenal growth. From almost 20,000 gallons in 1891, sales shot up to 35,360 gallons in 1892, then [during a nationwide depression] to 48,427 in 1893, 64,333 in 1894, and 76,244 in 1895. By 1900, Coca-Cola was already not simply a soft drink, but a phenomenon. With success, however, came increased notoriety and controversy. The drink’s cocaine content had been a source of trouble from the beginning, but it was also a major selling point.

The early ads were almost universally medicinal. Curiously, this was a turn away from Pemberton’s first ad for Coca-Cola, which called it “Delicious and Refreshing.” While the firm letterhead did proclaim that Coca-Cola was “Delicious, Refreshing, Exhilarating, Invigorating,” Candler’s early ads failed to use those adjectives. Instead, Coca-Cola was “Harmless, Wonderful, Efficient, Quick, Relieves Headache, Gives Prompt Rest.” It was the “Ideal Brain Tonic and Sovereign Remedy for Headache and Nervousness. It makes the sad glad and weak strong.” Candler believed in the drink’s beneficial effects, even if he denied they were due to cocaine.

Popular t-shirt logo during the late 1970s and early 1980s

Cocaine Lyrics, Eric Clapton
If you wanna hang out you've got to take her out; cocaine.
If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.

If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues; cocaine.
When your day is done and you wanna run 'round; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.

If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on; cocaine.
Don't forget this fact, you can't get it back; cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie; cocaine.

No comments: