COCA-COLA: An Illustrated History by Pat Watters

COCA-COLA: An Illustrated History

Email this review


This is a harmless if uncritical corporate history, in part mildly engaging, but wildly boring as a rule. In 1886 the pleasantly quackish Dr. Pemberton of Atlanta threw together some kola nuts, cocoa beans, sugar, and water, stirred vigorously, and sold the result as a hangover cure for overindulgent good old boys. The drink captured the palate of the nation, and Coca-Cola grew into a billion-dollar business whose cursive trademark has become the global symbol for the pause that refreshes. Atlanta newspaperman Watters gleefully traces that growth, and the problems attendant: the crude bottling technology of the early 1900s, the fight to get Americans to drink Coke in the winter, the tussles with the FDA over caffeine, the search for an effective advertising tack, the environmental question of disposable containers, and the delicate matter of the friendship between Robert Woodruff of Coca-Cola and a certain good old boy in Washington. But Watters is too partial to Coca-Cola to discuss these topics well. He defends Coke's inaction against apartheid in South Africa--where it does a dandy business--with the obvious remark that any other policy would lead to recriminations against Coke by the South African government. End of that discussion, and on to the next: why Pepsi-Cola salesmen are taught to hate Coca-Cola, while Coca-Cola salesmen are not taught to hate Pepsi-Cola. Most of the passages that are not partisan are dreary, though Watters can't avoid telling us some interesting things: the secret Coke formula, for example, is located in a Georgia bank vault and, yes, Coke once contained tiny amounts of cocaine. This is a soft-drink soft-sell badly in need of a pinch of salt.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday