Monthly Archives: February 2020
MY MONA LISA
My original, not the millionst reproduction of the icon of advertising: Vin Mariani, the european brand, which inspired Coca Cola. As a lithograph by Jules Cheret in 1894. My original. This is a Paris newspaper insert from 1895. Torn through the ages, but not landed in the trash. Somebody put the fragile newsprint on a canvas at some point, and so the fragile lady has been preserved for me. The motif of the dancing Mademouiselle, tipsy with cocaine and alcohol, became the epitome of the Belle Epoque. The campaign is a milestone, Vin Mariani is considered the inventor of modern advertising. The recipe for Mariani was copied by Pemberton for French Coca Wine, and 1915 Coca Colas hobbleskirt was born in USA, the most famous bottle in the world.
The cocaine extracted from the leaves of the South American coca bush was certainly the inspiration for the cradle of success. The Spanish conquerors had observed that the Indians chewed coca leaves to curb hunger and overcome fatigue. The French pharmacist Angelo Mariani from Corsica used this knowledge in the mid-19th century and mixed coca extract into wine. The “Vin Mariani” named after him soon enjoyed great popularity.
At the time, Émile Zola, Jules Verne and Henrik Ibsen were as enthusiastic about this potent drug as the composer Charles Gounod or the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Thomas Edison was inspired by the “Vin Mariani”, the Queen, the Tsar and three Popes enjoyed it to the fullest. One of them, Pope Leo XIII, was so taken with the cocaine-alcohol mixture that he awarded Mariani a gold medal. In Germany, even the military was listening. In 1886, the Allgemeine Allgemeine Zeitung recommended coca wine as a “new food supply in this year’s maneuver”.
And just like every successful product, the “Vin Mariani” soon found a copycat: The American John Stith Pemberton, a morphine-dependent pharmacist, produced a similar mixture around 1880 and sold it as “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca”. The wine-containing product soon encountered the growing resistance of the American abstainer movement. At the time, however, cocaine had a good reputation, it was supposed to cure alcoholism. So Pemberton omitted the controversial alcohol, created a cocaine drink without wine and called it “Coca-Cola”. He consistently advertised his creation as “functional food”: Coca-Cola was “a valuable brain food that could cure all possible nervous symptoms: nervous headaches, neuralgia, hysteria and melancholy”.
The most important ingredient in Coca-Cola was cocaine at the time. It is hardly surprising that the company soon had many loyal customers who were eagerly awaiting the next delivery of their tonic. The caffeine-containing cola nuts, which form the second part of the product name, probably didn’t contain anything, but they were good for advertising because they were said to have similarly positive health effects as today’s multivitamin juices. The manufacturer preferred to get the caffeine from the Darmstadt-based pharmaceutical company Merck.
When cocaine was banned, it appeared that Coca-Cola, the health potion, was over. In order not to change the taste, coca leaves were used from 1903, but the cocaine had been withdrawn beforehand. However, the old target group broke away and a new one was urgently needed. Now the advertisement targeted young people who were attracted to the continuing smell of the forbidden that surrounded Coca-Cola. This was the birth of a refreshing drink that became a worldwide success even without alcohol and cocaine.
Taken from: Pollmer, Warmuth: Encyclopedia of Popular Food Errors. Piper publishing house 2002