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c. 1890s - 1950s

These vintage Coca-Cola ads will take you back—waaaay back

It's been "The Real Thing" for a long, long time

“The Real Thing” first became a thing you could buy in a bottle 125 years ago today. Since then, Coke has grown into one of the world’s best known brands, with advertising to match.

Unsurprisingly, that advertising does not dwell on the drink’s origin as a morphine substitute. Colonel John Pemberton, a Confederate wounded in the U.S. Civil War, became addicted to the morphine used to address his injuries, and began a quest to identify a replacement. Pemberton’s French Wine Coca Nerve Tonic was created in Georgia, in 1885.

The drink, marketed as a medicine, was alcoholic. The following year, Georgia introduced prohibition to Pemberton’s district.

Undeterred, Pemberton developed a non-alcoholic version, called Coca-Cola. The cost was five cents a glass, and sales were around nine glasses a day. That first year the first Coke ad was published in the Atlanta Journal. In March 1894, the first bottled Coke was produced.

Fast-forward to today, and sales have increased just a little—to around 1.9 billion bottles daily. Below, a look back at some of Coke’s early advertising posters.

Library of Congress
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
David Pollack / Corbis / Getty Images
c. 1920
API / Gamma Rapho / Getty Images
Universal Images Group / Getty Images
Transcendental Graphics /Getty Images
c. 1930
API / Gamma Rapho / Getty Images
c. 1930
API / Gamma Rapho / Getty Images
c. 1935
API / Gamma Rapho / Getty Images
c. 1940
API / Gamma Rapho / Getty Images
c. 1945
API / Gamma Rapho / Getty Images
Picture Post / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
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