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Formula for Fortune

 

Contents                   

Family of Asa Candler  

Preface  

Part One: Making Money

 

Chapter 1: Farming and Praying

Chapter 2: Mixing Concoctions

Chapter 3: Serendipity

Chapter 4: Leaving Home

 Part Two: Making More Money

 Chapter 5: Changing World

Chapter 6: Creating Families

Chapter 7: Visions of Grandeur

Part Three: Spending Money

Chapter 8: Prominence and Prosperity

Chapter 9: In Control

Chapter 10: Losing Control

 Part Four: Enjoying Money

Chapter 11: Misbehavior  

Chapter 12: Trials and Tributes

 Chapter 13: Wild and Unfathomable Things

Chapter 14: Murder in Druid Hills 

Chapter 15: And So It Goes  

 Acknowledgments

Selected Bibliography

Notes

Index

 

 

From Chapter 1

 

     Shortly after Asa Griggs Candler opened his gleaming skyscraper in downtown Atlanta in 1906, he orchestrated a ceremony to be held each year on December 6, the birthday of both of his parents, an event that merited a brief write-up in the Atlanta Constitution in 1910. Although the article gave only facts and figures, a small stretch of the imagination—enhanced by information about the principal players—brings the ceremony to life. So let’s begin this foray into the past by imagining that gathering 

     First we notice a milling crowd standing around the elegant marble lobby. The group watches hopefully as Asa Candler Sr.—a short, wiry man, with gray hair and rimless glasses, looking remarkably hardy for a successful businessman pushing sixty—smiles down on the group from his post on the first landing of the staircase. . Except for the elegance of his attire and his commanding manner, unknowing observers would have never suspected he was one of the city’s wealthiest citizens. Not only has he made a fortune from Coca-Cola, but he is also a prominent banker, realtor, philanthropist, and civil servant. Recently he so successfully completed a two-year term as chairman of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce that people were suggesting he run for mayor. Despite all his accomplishments, Asa Candler managed to retain his distinctive southern drawl and the many colloquialisms that hinted of his humble origins.

     His own children, along with most of his grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, are present that morning, as are several of his siblings and his dignified wife, Lucy Elizabeth. Near her is their only daughter, Lucy, along with her husband, Bill Owens, an officer in his father-in-law’s bank, and their young daughter Elizabeth. Asa’s four sons dared not miss this command performance. Although each of the young men acts friendly and cordial to his brothers, the tension between them is palpable. That is especially true of the two oldest, Howard, vice president of the Coca-Cola Company, and the next in line, Asa Jr., called either “Bud” or “Buddie” by the family. He has recently become manager of his father’s vast real estate holdings and seems to be happy in his new role. Howard’s wife, Flora, stands close by her husband’s side, while their son and daughter are having an animated conversation with their Uncle Bud’s children, who are there with their mother, Helen. Nearby Walter Candler, now a clerk at his father’s bank, chats with one of his cousins, while his pretty but exhausted wife, Eugenia, who left a new daughter at home with a nurse, is watching her two little boys chase around her feet. William—the youngest of Asa Candler’s children and the only one of the brothers still single in 1910—stands on the edge of the crowd, having just rushed in from the Coca-Cola plant, where he is treasurer.

     The crowd grows quiet when Methodist Bishop Warren Candler, a broad-shouldered bulldog of a man, steps forward to deliver the blessing. Heads bow and children are silenced as, in deep, sonorous tones, Asa’s brother asks for the Lord’s countenance to shine benevolently upon the descendants of Sam and Martha Candler. . . . .

 
 
From Chapter 3
 
      The answer to Asa Candler’s prayers was waiting a few blocks away in a house on Marietta Street, where Doc Pemberton was experimenting with patent medicines. Doc had always been a peculiar fellow. Tall and gaunt, with deep-set brooding eyes and a long, dark, scraggly beard, he suffered from persistent illness, which probably contributed to his haggard look. A few years after the Civil War, he moved his family from Columbus, Georgia, to Atlanta and spent the next two decades working at a series of drugstores, barely earning enough to make ends meet. Asa had known Pemberton ever since he came to town, mostly because they were competing pharmacists. But where Asa was ambitious and determined to make money, Doc was more interested in his hobby, or more accurately, his obsession: tinkering with concoctions to heal everything from gout to high blood pressure. One of these was an elixir made from wine mixed with the recently discovered coca leaf. He bottled the mixture under the name “French Wine Coca” (or “Wine Cola”), a syrup to be mixed with water and taken to ease nerves and cure ailments. Finally Pemberton came up with a balance of water, sugar, extract of kola nut, caffeine, coca leaf, and a pinch of cocaine, producing a refreshing drink that doubled as a healing remedy.

      After the syrup pleased him, Doc convinced a pair of local drugstores to give it a test run. The more popular of the two was Dr. Joseph Jacobs’s pharmacy at the corner of Whitehall and Marietta Streets, where Willis Venerable operated the soda fountain. As local businessmen, young people, and nearby residents began demanding Wine Cola, Pemberton realized that he had a potential winner. Deciding that the best way to capitalize on his invention was to form a partnership, he teamed up with his son Charley and Ed Holland, scion of one of Villa Rica’s leading families, who agreed to loan the start-up money. Soon after the trio formed the Pemberton Chemical Company, Doc hired two Maine natives, Frank Robinson and David Doe, both having recently settled in Atlanta after touring the country selling advertisements produced on their own portable printing press. Although Robinson and Doe had no formal contract with Pemberton, they poured all their savings¾along with that of a few friends and relatives¾into ads placed in local papers.

      The first thing Frank Robinson did was coin the catchy name “Coca-Cola,” combining two ingredients found in the mixture. Then employing the familiar rhetoric used by patent-medicine salesmen, he hawked the brew as an aphrodisiac, a panacea for exhaustion, a nerve stimulant, a cure for intemperance, and a substitute for alcoholic beverages. In an attempt to make the product more salable, he hired a local printer to design a unique trademark displaying the name “Coca-Cola” in a curved Spenserian script, similar to that then taught in penmanship classes. The initial advertising was so successful that he ordered five hundred streetcar cards, sixteen hundred posters, and forty-five tin signs. Meanwhile, according to Coca-Cola lore, one day at the Jacobs Pharmacy soda fountain Venable tapped the wrong spigot, thus mixing the syrup with carbonated water instead of the plain water prescribed by Pemberton. And, voila, a new phenomenon was born. Whether this actually happened or not is unimportant. It was the fortuitous addition of carbonation that gave the “medicine” its pizzazz. .