Coke museum holds history

Published 9:59 am Thursday, May 26, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said Coca-Cola “means a single thing coming from a single source and well known to the community,” and that could not be more true for Vicksburg.

The Museum of Coca Cola History and Memorabilia, 1107 Washington Street, is where Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time in 1894 at the Biedenharn Candy Company.

“(Joseph A Biedenharn) would bottle his own soda water. He would bottle a case, he would take it to people out in the country in his horse and buggy,” Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation executive director Nancy Bell said. “People out in the country wanted to know why they couldn’t get Coca-Cola. Why could he bring them a case of strawberry when the Coke was really better?”

Biedenharn bottled some Coca Cola and sent it to Atlanta to ask for permission to sell it in a bottle. The company agreed.

“That’s really what launched Coca Cola, the ability to get it anytime, anyplace,” Bell said. “Really, if you think about it, it sounds like they didn’t think it through, but soda fountains were the thing of the day. I can understand why they would think bottling wouldn’t have been successful.”

Biedenharn created a new concept of marketing and selling the drink and established the cornerstone of the independent network of franchised bottlers who now distribute bottled Coca-Cola all over the world.

His old candy shop now serves as a history and memorabilia museum and includes history such as some of the first bottles, bottling equipment and an ingredients list that shows cocaine was once a part of the formula.

The museum also includes Biedenharn family history, iconic marketing materials and a replicated soda fountain shop.

Though there are no more Cokes bottled in Vicksburg, patrons can purchase bottled Coke products or even a Coke float. Coke memorabilia is also available for purchase.

“It’s such a very important part of Vicksburg’s history and Mississippi’s history and the world’s history really,” Bell said. “It’s a little-known gem, but it’s a very important part of the cultural heritage here. We’re pleased to be a part of that.”

Hours for the museum are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum is closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Admission is $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children ages 6 to 12. Group rates are available, and there is a AAA discount.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in an ongoing series highlighting museums in Vicksburg.