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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12, 1894

Welcome to another exciting trip back through time.  The Tuesday Timeline has always been one of my favourite entries to write, but lately I seem to be turning them into information dumps.  So, for this week, I wanted to focus more on the date, and less on the extraneous information that I present at the beginning of these weekly entries.

I guess one of the reasons why I have done that was because I didn’t want to leave anything out.  To me, all historical events have some significance, and I think that at some point, they should all be remembered.  But, when they take over the feature and make the intended subject that I wanted to talk about nothing more than a footnote, that wasn’t the effect that I wanted to have happen.

So, at the risk of leaving certain things out, I’ll continue doing the historical events/celebrity birthdays...but I think I’ll narrow them down to just fifteen events, and fifteen celebrity birthdays, just so we can get into the real meat of the Tuesday Timeline entry.

So, let’s begin with a selection of the famous people who happen to have a March 12 birthday.  Celebrating a birthday today are Al Jarreau, Liza Minnelli, Frank Welker, Mitt Romney, James Taylor, Ron Jeremy, Steve Harris (Iron Maiden), Marlon Jackson (Jackson 5), Jerry Levine, Julia Campbell, Darryl Strawberry, Aaron Eckhart, Casey Mears, Pete Doherty (Babyshambles), John-Paul Lavoisier, Jaimie Alexander, and Elly Jackson (La Roux).

(Well, okay, that’s 17, not fifteen.  Ah well, such is life.)

And, here are just fifteen of many historical events that took place on this date.

1881 – Andrew Watson makes history in the world of soccer, being the first black international player/captain

1912 – The Girl Guides (renamed the Girl Scouts of the USA) are founded

1913 – The future capital of Australia is given the name of Canberra

1928 – The St. Francis Dam fails, killing six hundred people in California

1947 – The Truman Doctrine is proclaimed to help stop the spread of Communism

1950 – The world’s deadliest air disaster (the Llandow Air Disaster) takes place in Wales, in which eighty lose their lives in an airplane crash

1955 – American jazz saxophonist/composer Charlie “Yardbird” Parker dies in New York City of a heart attack at just 34 years of age

1993 – Parts of Canada and the United States are affected by the “Blizzard of ‘93”, in which it snowed continuously for thirty hours straight in some areas (I know...I lived through it!)

2001 – Controversial talk show host Morton Downey Jr. dies of lung cancer at the age of 68

2003 – American actress Lynne Thigpen passes away of a cerebral hemmorage in Marina del Ray, California at the age of 54

2004 – The President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, is impeached by its National Assembly

2009 – Bernie Madoff pleads guilty to charges that he embezzled $18 billion from investors

2011 – A day after a devastating earthquake strikes Japan, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experiences a meltdown, sending radiation into the air

So, what do you think?  Do you like the new set up of the Tuesday Timeline opening?  I’m interested in hearing from you!

And, since we’re experimenting with some new techniques in the Tuesday Timeline, I thought that for this edition, we’d take a look at a decade that we have not done a feature on before.  In fact, we’re looking at a CENTURY that we have never done in this feature before!  This Tuesday Timeline is the oldest date that we have ever featured on this blog, so I hope you’re ready for a true blue history lesson.  As well, I’ll share a few of my own memories of today’s subject.

We are going back in time one hundred and nineteen years to March 12, 1894! 

That’s right.  We’re going back to the 1800s with this blog entry.  Although none of you living remembers experiencing this particular date, it was a very important one in the world of food and beverage (with particular emphasis on the beverage part).

All right, so here’s my question for all of you.  How many of you in this world have tried a Coca-Cola?  I’m sure that almost all of you are raising your hands.  It’s not shocking, really.  Coca-Cola (or Coke, as some people like to call it) is probably one of the most recognizable brands in the entire world.  It is heavily featured in Times Square, after you can see below!

Well, on March 12, 1894, Coca-Cola first became available in bottled form for public consumption!  It was bottled by Vicksburg, Mississippi soda fountain owner Joseph Biedenharm, and since 1894, Coca-Cola is now sold in almost every single country in the world (except for Cuba and North Korea). 

Of course, Coca-Cola existed before was just the first time that Coca-Cola became available for consumption in its iconic bottle.  Coca-Cola was actually founded eight years prior, in 1886.  It was first invented and manufactured by John Pemberton, who at the time worked at the Eagle Drug and Chemical Company.  The drink was essentially a non-alcoholic version of a coca wine that he invented which was called “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca”.  But with the state of Georgia passing prohibition legislation in 1886, Pemberton had to improvise.  He came up with the original formula for Coca-Cola and first sold it in May 1886 at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.  And, Coca-Cola was not marketed as a soft drink, it was marketed as a medication.  For the price of a nickel, customers could purchase a glass of Coca-Cola in hopes of curing what ailed them.  After all, people believed that carbonated water had many healing properties.

(Who knew that in recent years, that belief would flip considerably...but we’ll get to that a little later!)

Pemberton made all sorts of claims that Coca-Cola could cure many diseases including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, and even impotence!  Of course, we all know that there is no such drink as Coke Viagra, but hey, it’s amazing to know that people believed that a soft drink could be marketed as a miracle cure!

NOTE:  Then again, when you consider that Coca-Cola was once manufactured with coca leaves (which can be used to make the highly addictive drug cocaine), I suppose that the after effects could fool people into thinking that a placebo could be a miracle cure.  The beverage is now made with the less harmful stimulant of caffeine.

Coca-Cola was eventually bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler, and through his aggressive marketing, helped transform Coca-Cola from a small company into a global conglomerate.  Of course, one of these ways was to bottle it as a soft drink, and certainly Biedenharm helped out by bottling and selling the product one March day in 1894.  But, how else did Coca-Cola become one of the biggest companies in the world?

Well, certainly its advertisements helped get people’s attention.  I don’t think that I can remember seeing a Coca-Cola ad that I didn’t enjoy.  Coca-Cola came up with some commercials that people still remember ten, twenty, even forty years later.  Consider this classic ad from 1971, where people wished that they could buy the world a Coke...

...or how about this 1980 commercial featuring “Mean” Joe Greene?

...or how about these wonderful series of holiday ads that began airing in the early 1990s?

Really, all of these commercials have made a huge impact on the world of pop culture, and they are part of the reason why Coke has grown into such a huge company.

TRIVIA:  And those ads don’t include the number of celebrity promoters that have appeared in Coke ads.  If you click on the names, you can see Whitney Houston, George Michael, and Kylie Minogue taking their turns as Coca-Cola spokespeople.

Of course, that’s not to say that the company hasn’t made huge blunders over the years. 

Anybody who was around in April 1985 might remember the complete disaster that happened when Coke executives decided to mess with a good thing.

Roberto Goizueta became the CEO of Coca-Cola in 1980, after being in charge of the company’s Bahamian subsidiary.  After he increased sales in that country by slightly changing the formula of the original recipe, one of his key plans was to change the original formula of Coca-Cola, and market it under the name “New Coke”.  The new drink hit the marketplace on April 23, 1985, and within weeks, it was getting a really negative reaction from consumers.  Though, it didn’t really help that Goizueta wasn’t exactly...well...passionate about describing the new flavour in press conferences.  I don’t exactly know if harmonious would be an adjective that I would have used to describe the taste of New Coke, but it did do one thing.  It taught the world to drink Pepsi in perfect harmony!

At the peak of the New Coke scandal, the company logged as many as 400,000 complaints from consumers, outraged at the sub-standard new formula and demanded that the company reinstate the classic taste they grew up with.  By the end of 1985, Coke brought back the old formula, marketing it under the name “Coca-Cola Classic”, and New Coke was phased out completely in favour of the classic recipe.

And, of course, Coca-Cola has been in the spotlight in recent years for promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, being one of the main culprits in the recent rise in childhood obesity rates.  With Coca-Cola being sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which doctors believe is more dangerous to a person’s health than regular cane sugar, it’s not hard to understand why people would be concerned about it.  But, you know, my take is, people should be informed enough to make their own decisions on what foods and beverages that they want to consume.  Clearly Coca-Cola will never be as healthy as a glass of water, or a container of milk.  That said, if people want to have a Coca-Cola every once in a while, I won’t fault them for it.

Besides, if it wasn’t for Coca-Cola, I wouldn’t have a topic to discuss today!

Hmmm...I’m actually wondering just how much money an original 1894 Coke bottle would go for in auction these days now that I think of it...

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