“Carolina Colas and Carbonated Treasures” is on display in the Verona Joyner Langford North Carolina Collection on the third floor of Joyner Library.
Exhibited treasures include vintage advertisements and antique glass soda bottles, most of which were bottled in Greenville, North Carolina. Other items on display are letters, photographs and local memorabilia.
Visitors will learn how the famous soda brands and their local imitators got their start, along with the history of local bottling companies in Greenville and other successful regional enterprises.
The Cola Wars started long before Lionel Ritchie or Michael Jackson ever cut a record. Beginning in the late 1880s the success of Coca-Cola sparked a legion of imitators. Here in the Carolinas, Brad’s Drink proved the most successful on both a local and national scale.
Brad’s Drink, the original name for Pepsi-Cola, came from New Bern pharmacist and drugstore owner Caleb Bradham, who invented the concoction in the 1890s. In August 1898, Bradham named his creation Pepsi-Cola.
The national brands were originally delivered as syrups for distribution at an established soda fountain. Drugstores and other locations with soda fountains served as social hang-outs for all ages and classes. As the idea of individual servings caught on, a franchise bottling system developed to distribute the national brands. The process encouraged the growth of local bottling companies all across the country. In the southeast, such companies were particularly numerous.
During the mid-1930s, the town of New Bern was home to four different bottling companies. At times, Greenville and Washington hosted as many as five separate bottling plants. It was not long before a host of local bottlers were trying their hands at crafting soft drink formulas.
The exhibit will be on display through October.