In 1886, an Atlanta Georgia pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton created a new soft drink using a flavored syrup, which when mixed with carbonated water proved to be a very refreshing and popular. The Doctors partner, Frank M. Robinson, has been credited with coming up with the “Coca‑Cola” name along with designing the distinctive logo.
Pemberton sold his interest in the company during 1888 to Asa G. Candler, a local businessman who then moved to widen the market area of the beverage beyond the Atlanta area. Later in 1894, Joseph Biedenharn started bottling Coke in a room behind his Mississippi soda fountain, this marked the first time it was able to be distributed and sold outside of a soda fountain.
Three businessmen in Chattanooga, Tennessee, then took the next step in 1899, when they purchased the bottling rights from Asa Candler and built a large-scale bottling plant. From that point on the partners moved to wide-spread distribution that ended up with local deliveries handled with a horse and wagon.
Soon automobiles modified to carry goods came into use by the various distributors. Ford and Coca-Cola have had a long association and the photos they have supplied begin with the use of the Model “T” Ford: On the left above can be seen a 1912 Ford Torpedo Roadster on a lengthened wheelbase, with heavy-duty demountable rim wheels and a special rear section built for carrying the product. In the middle above can be seen an early twenties Ford fitted with a twenty-four case delivery body in France.
As soon as purpose-built light and medium duty trucks came on the market, bottlers and distributors turned to them to deliver the product: At the top of the post can be seen a late Ford Model AA 1-1/2-ton panel truck in downtown Denver, Colorado. The Chevrolet Panel Truck above right was used in El Paso, Texas.
The Ford Model AA truck pictured below left was used in Birmingham, Alabama. A 1935 Ford truck below center makes a delivery during a flood in Richmond, Virginia. It appears that post-war, distributors changed to the same basic type of truck body minus the tambour doors, as are still seen in use today; a 1953 Ford cab-over-engine Model P500 Coca-Cola delivery truck of this style can be seen below right. All photos courtesy of the Coca-Cola Company.