That Other Coca-Cola Museum Marks a Milestone

The charming candy shop and soda fountain in Vicksburg, Mississippi, was the first to bottle Coke 130 years ago

Inside a historic soda shop, a woman shows two children the room

Photo: courtesy of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum

Inside the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum.

Coca-Cola was created in 1886 in Atlanta, but the soft drink really grew legs in 1894, when Joseph Biedenharn noted Coke’s high sales at his Vicksburg, Mississippi, combo candy shop–soda fountain, secured the parent company’s permission to bottle it for the first time, and made the beverage mobile. (Previously, it could only be sipped on-site at soda fountains.) 

From March 11 to 16, the city and the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, housed in the original Biedenharn building, will celebrate the fizzy first’s 130th anniversary with a sock hop, a drive-in movie, and bourbon and Coke tastings. 

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Nancy Bell, the executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, oversees the museum and explains the festivities’ midcentury flavor. “The fifties and sixties were Coke’s heyday, with movies and popular culture of that era showcasing it,” she says. On March 12, the actual anniversary, visitors touring the museum’s replica soda fountain (which serves Coke floats!), reproduction bottling works, and collection of memorabilia can enjoy a free glass-bottle Coke.

photo: courtesy of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
The exterior of the museum.

Bell would love to give the world a Coke, but only the “real thing.” “New Coke wasn’t Coke,” she says of the soda’s reformulation that notoriously flopped back in the 1980s. “I don’t think anyone liked it. We have a single New Coke item: a T-shirt with an X through the New Coke logo.”

Find more information on the anniversary events and museum here.

photo: courtesy of the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum
Displays of vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia.