March 29th in History

Event of the Day — Coca-Cola® Invented

During the Civil War, pharmacist and Confederate colonel Dr. John Pemberton was badly wounded in the Battle of Columbus, Georgia. As a result of his treatment, he became, like many veterans, addicted to the morphine used to treat his pain. For some twenty years, he experimented with different potential cures, and eventually developed an American version of a tonic medicine known as Vin Mariani, a blend of Bordeaux wine with extract of coca leaves, though Pemberton’s version added kola nut and damiana.

The product, “Pemberton’s French Wine Cola,” was advertised as a treatment for drug addiction, depression, alcoholism, and “neurasthenia” (a disease of high-strung women). It was billed as beneficial for “ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration, irregularities of the stomach, bowels and kidneys, who require a nerve tonic and a pure, delightful diffusible stimulant.”

The alcohol in French Wine Cola became problematic when Fulton County, Georgia, implemented temperance laws, and Pemberton was forced to prepare a non-alcoholic version, working with an Atlanta druggist named Willis Venable. On March 29, 1886, the two created a new drink, blending the base syrup developed from French Wine Cola with carbonated water. Pemberton thought it would work better as a fountain drink than as a medicine, and so began the soft drink known as Coca-Cola®.

On this day in history —

  • The largest military engagement in the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Towton, takes place (1461)
  • The Knights of Columbus is founded (1882)
  • The last V-1 “buzz bomb” attack takes place (1945)
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage (1951)
  • Lieutenant William Calley is convicted for the My Lai massacre (1971)
  • Charles Manson is sentenced to death (1971)
  • The Terracotta Army is discovered in China (1974)
  • Mariner 10 reaches Mercury (1974)
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average breaks 10,000 for the first time (1999)

It’s the birthday of —

  • Jennifer Capriati, tennis player (1976)
  • Lucy Lawless, actress (1968)
  • Ондар Коңгар-оол (Kongar-ol Ondar), Tuvan throat singer (1962)
  • Billy Beane, sabermetrician (1962)
  • Amy Sedaris, actress and comedienne (1961)
  • Annabella Sciorra, actress (1960)
  • Kurt Thomas, gymnast (1956)
  • Marina Sirtis, Star Trek counselor (1955)
  • Earl Campbell, football player (1955)
  • Brendan Gleeson, played Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter (1955)
  • Karen Ann Quinlan, right-to-die case (1954)
  • Bud Cort, actor (1948)
  • Walt Frazier, basketball player (1945)
  • Denny McLain, baseball player (1944)
  • Eric Idle, Monty Python member (1943)
  • John Major, prime minister (1943)
  • Vangelis, composer (1943)
  • Billy Carter, beer namesake (1937)
  • Judith Guest, author (1936)
  • Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, crime boss known as “The Oddfather” (1928)
  • John McLaughlin, bloviator (1927)
  • Eileen Heckart, actress (1919)
  • Pearl Bailey, singer (1918)
  • Sam Walton, retailer (1918)
  • Man o’War, racehorse (1917)
  • Eugene McCarthy, presidential candidate (1916)
  • Hanna Reitsch, test pilot (1912)
  • Arthur O’Connell, actor (1908)
  • E. Power Biggs, organist (1906)
  • Philip Ahn, Master Kan in Kung Fu (1905)
  • Don “Midnight” Miller, football player (1902)
  • Лавре́нтий Бе́рия (Lavrentiy Beria), secret policeman (1899)
  • József Mindszenty, cardinal (1892)
  • Warner Baxter, Cisco Kid (1889)
  • Cy Young, baseball player (1867)
  • John Tyler, 10th US president (and my g-g-g-g-great uncle) (1790)

Deaths —

  • Johnnie Cochran, lawyer (2005)
  • John Lewis, jazz pianist (2001)
  • Paul Henreid, actor (1992)
  • Lee Atwater, political strategist (1991)
  • Ted Kluzewski, baseball player (1988)
  • Jeanine Deckers, singing nun (1985)
  • Mantovani, conductor (1980)
  • Georges Seurat, pointillist (1891)
  • John Jacob Astor, businessman (1848)
  • Emanuel Swedenborg, scientist and theologian (1772)

Holidays —

  • Boganda Day (Central African Republic)
  • Día del Joven Combatiente (Chile)
  • Martyr’s Day (Madagascar)
  • National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day (United States)
  • Repose of Elder Nicetas of the Roslavl Forests (Orthodox Christianity)
  • Youth Day (Republic of China/Taiwan)