Early 1900's: Bottling Comes into the Limelight

Bottled Coke gets its Start

In 1899, Ben Franklin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead approached Candler about perhaps bottling the drink so it was available beyond the soda fountain. Asa believed there was no time or need to start bottling. However, he did say that the two men could attempt to bottle the drink as long as they didn't sacrifice quality.

Candler drew up a contract, but didn't set a term on it. Thomas and Whitehead could essentially have the rights to bottle Coke for as long as they wanted, and the could also sell the rights to any bottling plants they created. In addition, he gave the rights away for absolutely nothing.

Why did Candler do this? He seriously believed that there would be no way for the two to be successful. So he figured it was a winning situation because he didn't have to invest anything into the bottling process. At the time, the only way to bottle a drink was with a Hutchinson stopper. It was a rubber stopper that was put in place by a wire, and to open the drink you push the wire in, or "pop" it. Candler believed this method would seriously compromise the quality of the drink.

But this was not the kind of bottling Thomas and Whitehead had in mind. By 1900, however, bottle caps were beginning to surface. This was the perfect solution for the bottling problem. In the early 1900's bottled Coca-Cola was available at grocers and saloons.

Coke bottling was a highly successful venture. Thomas sold the bottling rights to independent businessmen, and by 1909, 379 bottling plants were in American cities and towns. With the bottle caps keeping the drink fresh, mules and carts were about to deliver the drinks to towns in all parts of the country.

A Unique Bottle Design

Coca-Cola's new design, from Wikimedia Commons

At a time where refrigerators were not available, soft drinks were stored in coolers of ice. This made it very easy for imitators to jump into the competition, since all of the bottles were shaped the same and consumers couldn't see what they were grabbing. It also didn't help that the paper labels helping to identify Coke would often fall off in the ice.

To alleviate this problem, Coca-Cola began taking submissions for new bottle designs. They wanted the packaging to be unique and identifiable, so much so that if a Coke bottle was shattered, you would be able to tell what it was.

In 1916, the winner was announced. Workers from a glass plant in Terre Haute, Indiana came up with the winning design. Ironically, their design was based on misinformation. They thought that cocoa was an ingredient in Coca-Cola, so they made the bottle look like a cocoa seed.

The design was slimmed down, and it became known as the contour bottle and the hobbleskirt bottle. The unique qualities of the bottle still remain on the plastic bottles of today.

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