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Soon after Coca-Cola hit the market, Pemberton became ill and was nearly bankrupt, which some reports attribute to his continuing morphine addiction. He began selling rights to his formula to his business partners in Atlanta and in 1888 Pemberton and his son sold the remaining portion of the patent to Asa Candler. (Photo: HNA)

John Stith Pemberton, a Confederate lieutenant colonel, served in the defense of Columbia, Georgia, during the Battle of Columbus in April 1865, where he sustained a saber wound to the chest. During his recovery from the wound, he became addicted to morphine, which he used to dull the pain.

Seeking a cure from his addiction, Pemberton in 1866 began to experiment with making painkillers that were opium-free alternatives to morphine. Eventually he began experimenting with coca and coca wines, creating a recipe he dubbed Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.

The medicine was sold and advertised in Atlanta to war veterans suffering drug addiction, depression and alcoholism, and to “ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration.”

In 1886, when Atlanta enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton produced a nonalcoholic alternative to his French Wine Coca, which included blending the base syrup with carbonated water. He decided then to sell it as a fountain drink rather than a medicine. Frank Robinson, who served as bookkeeper and partner to Pemberton, gave the syrup formula the name Coca-Cola, where “Coca” came from the coca leaves used and “Cola” for the kola nuts.

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