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June 17, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: The cacao pod and the Coca-Cola bottle

TERRE HAUTE — An interesting conversation occurred recently with a friend visiting from out of town. During his visit, the subject of the beverage industry in Terre Haute came up. Since we have both worked in the production and sale of coffee for many years, the beverage industry is an interesting and oft discussed topic.

He was intrigued to learn that Terre Haute was once home to distilleries, breweries, coffee roasting plants, and more. However, the item that particularly took him aback was the local connection to the Coco-Cola Co. And more specifically, that the Coke bottle was designed in Terre Haute by Earl R. Dean and Alexander Samuelson of the Root Glass Co.

Not only was he unaware of our connection to the development of one of the most ubiquitous elements of modern consumer design, he was amazed to learn that the bottle was based on the shape of a cacao pod. The cacao pod is the raw material from which we get cocoa; however there is no cocoa in Coca-Cola (except in the shape of the bottle). However, as a design element, the shape of the pod is nearly a perfect choice.

At the Vigo County Historical Museum, there is an actual cacao pod on display in the Coca-Cola exhibit. Donated by David Buchanan, the pod is a visual representation of what Dean and Samuelson found when looking for inspiration.

Simple, yet strong, the design of the Coke bottle is recognized around the world. And from an almost unknown element, one of the most prominent items of modern consumer culture was born. Ask for a Coke; they are actually available at the Museum in glass bottles. Take a moment to reflect on the design and see if you also feel the cacao pod was the perfect model for Coca-Cola.

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