Though today there is almost nothing as ubiquitous as a bottle of Coca-Cola, this was not always the case. For the first several years of its existence, Coke was only available as a fountain drink, and its producer saw no reason for that to change. It was not until March 12, 1894 that Coke was first sold in bottles.
Originally developed as a non-addictive substitute for morphine, then marketed as a non-alcoholic “temperance drink,” Coca-Cola was invented by John Pemberton, a druggist in Columbus, Georgia, in 1886. It was soon popular throughout the region, and the rights to the brand passed to Asa Griggs Candler. Candler’s nephew had advised him that selling the drink in bottles could greatly increase sales, but Griggs apparently wasn’t interested. The first person to bottle Coke was Joseph A. Biedenharn, owner of a candy store in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Correctly determining that bottles could boost sales, Biedenharn put the drink into Hutchinson bottles, a common and reusable glass bottle that bore no resemblance to the modern Coke bottle. He sent Candler a case, but Candler continued to stick with fountain sales.
Five years later, Candler finally sold the national bottling rights to Coke—excluding the right to bottle it in Vicksburg—to two brothers from Chattanooga. Still convinced that bottling would not be a major source of revenue, Candler sold the bottling rights for a dollar and reportedly never collected even that. The contract stipulated that a bottle of Coke would cost 5 cents and had no end date, a legal oversight that resulted in the price remaining the same until 1959. In 1915, the bottlers put out a call for a new design, one so distinctive that one could recognize it if it were in pieces on the ground or by feeling it in the dark. The winning design, produced by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, gave the world the iconic contoured bottle we know today.