The Coca-Cola Bottle of 1915


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"The Coca-Cola bottle is more than mere glass; it is a symbol of shared memories, uniting us in a single sip of effervescent nostalgia."

The year was 1915, and the Coca-Cola Company, already a successful and growing enterprise, found itself at a crossroads.

Imitators were springing up left and right, copying the design of their bottles and creating confusion in the market.

It was then that the company made a bold decision: to hold a design contest, challenging glassmakers to create a bottle so distinctive it would be recognized by touch alone.

This contest would lead to the creation of one of the most iconic designs in history—the Coca-Cola contour bottle (1915), which remains a symbol of the brand to this day.


old glass bottles
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In the bustling heart of America, Terre Haute, Indiana, a contest was taking shape that would redefine the landscape of beverage branding.

It was a call for innovation, a challenge issued by the Coca-Cola company to design a bottle so distinct that one could recognize it even in the dark, or if shattered on the ground.

The stage was set for a transformation, the birth of a vessel that would carry more than just a drink, but a symbol of shared experiences and collective memories.

The Unlikely Innovator

In the face of this challenge, one might have expected the giants of the glassmaking industry to dominate the competition.

But as often happens in the world of innovation, it was an underdog that emerged victorious.

From the unlikely town of Terre Haute, Indiana, the Root Glass Company, a relatively small enterprise, dared to dream big.

Its guiding light was Alexander Samuelson, a Swedish immigrant who had honed his craft in the flames of glassmaking since his early years.

He was a man of quiet determination and extraordinary talent, imbued with a spirit of ingenuity that shone brightly in the glassware he created.

A Design for the Ages

Samuelson and his team worked relentlessly, sketching and reshaping, seeking to embody the essence of Coca-Cola within the curves of the bottle.

They understood that they were not merely crafting a container for a beverage, but a vessel for an emotion, a feeling. They were creating a symbol that would be held in hands around the globe, a shared experience in the simple act of quenching one's thirst.

In the end, it was a design inspired by the cocoa pod—ironic, given that no cocoa is used in the drink—that won the contest.

Its distinct contours, ribbed texture, and slender waist set it apart from anything else on the market.

It was more than just a bottle—it was a masterpiece of industrial design, a beacon of brand identity, a testament to the inventive spirit of the Root Glass Company.


Cocoa pod
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In the crucible of creation, not all ideas are born fully formed.

The design process that Alexander Samuelson and his team embarked upon was a testament to this struggle.

Each brainstorming session, each sketch, each prototype was an exploration of possibilities, a search for something unique, something that could encapsulate the essence of Coca-Cola.

Yet, for all their efforts, the truly distinctive concept they sought remained elusive.

The team was striving for more than mere functionality.

They knew that the bottle they were designing needed to be an object of desire, an artifact that would draw the eye and evoke a sense of familiarity, of comfort, even in the midst of the unknown. It needed to be as distinctive in shape as Coca-Cola was in taste.

The Unexpected Muse

As the search for inspiration grew increasingly desperate, a chance encounter with an encyclopedia opened up an unexpected path.

Amidst the pages of this repository of knowledge, Samuelson stumbled upon an illustration of a cocoa pod. The elongated, ribbed shape of the pod, its natural curves and ridges, caught his attention.

It was simple, yet distinctive, just as the Coca-Cola bottle needed to be.

In the organic form of the cocoa pod, Samuelson found his muse.

He was captivated by its unique shape, its dynamic contours that suggested both strength and elegance. He saw in it a possibility, a potential blueprint for the Coca-Cola bottle.

The Birth of an Icon

With the cocoa pod as their guide, the team set to work, translating the natural form into the language of industrial design.

They took the pod's elongated silhouette, its curvy shape, and transformed it into the contour of the bottle, adding a modern twist to the organic inspiration.

The design was given a fluted body, creating a ribbed texture reminiscent of the cocoa pod's exterior.

It was a painstaking process of adaptation and innovation, a careful balancing act between respecting the original inspiration and crafting something new.

The team was not merely mimicking nature; they were interpreting it, infusing it with an industrial aesthetic that echoed the modernity of the 20th century.

The final design was a harmonious marriage of organic form and industrial function.

The Coca-Cola bottle, with its distinctive contours, was born.

It was a design that embodied the essence of the cocoa pod while standing as a symbol of modern, industrial innovation. And in the process, the Root Glass Company had crafted an icon that would endure the test of time.


Coca-Cola contour bottle 1915
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As the winning design emerged from the fiery kilns of the Root Glass Company, it became apparent that the team had not only created a container, they had fashioned a piece of culture.

The unique shape of the bottle, with its cinched middle and curvaceous form, bore an uncanny resemblance to the fashionable skirts of the time, popularly known as "hobble-skirts".

As such, it was this moniker that was naturally extended to the bottle.

Samuelson's team had inadvertently mirrored the zeitgeist of their era, crafting a symbol that resonated beyond the sphere of beverage consumption.

A Marriage of Form and Function

But the "hobble-skirt" bottle was more than just a reflection of popular fashion—it was a remarkable marriage of form and function.

The bottle's distinctive curves provided a tactile pleasure, making it easy to grip even when condensation formed on its cold exterior. The fluted base, an echo of the cocoa pod's natural ridges, offered stability, preventing the bottle from easily tipping over.

Each element of the design was considered with careful precision, resulting in a bottle that was not only visually arresting but also practical. The team at Root Glass Company had created a vessel that was as much a joy to hold as it was to behold.


green hue coke glass
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In the realm of creation, there are instances where unintended consequences evolve into defining features. Such was the case with the signature green hue of the Coca-Cola bottle, an attribute that was more a result of serendipity than design.

The sand used by the Root Glass Company, like many sands ideal for glassmaking, came with its share of impurities.

When subjected to the fiery heat of the kiln, these impurities reacted, imbuing the finished glass with a distinctive greenish tint.

Samuelson and his team might have fretted over this unexpected outcome, concerned that it was a deviation from the clear glass norm. But as the finished product emerged, a subtly tinted, elegantly shaped bottle, it became clear that the green hue was anything but a flaw.

An Identity Born from Impurity

The green-tinted glass, far from being seen as a defect, quickly became an integral part of the bottle's identity.

The color added a certain charm to the design, an added layer of intrigue to its already distinctive silhouette.

It imparted the bottle with an antique allure, a sense of timelessness that resonated with consumers.

What was initially a side effect of the glassmaking process soon became synonymous with Coca-Cola.

The bottle's green hue, like its hobble-skirt shape, was instantly recognizable, another trait that distinguished it from the sea of clear glass bottles.

Embracing the Unplanned

Over time, the Coca-Cola Company recognized the value of this happy accident.

Far from seeking to correct the 'imperfection', they chose to embrace it, to make the green hue a deliberate part of their branding strategy.

They understood that the unique tint had become as much a part of the Coca-Cola identity as the logo or the shape of the bottle itself.


King size Coke ad
Source: The Coca-Cola Company

As the calendar pages turned and the world advanced into the latter half of the 20th century, the Coca-Cola bottle found itself needing to adapt to changing consumer needs.

A revolution of sorts was brewing in the post-war era.

As economies grew and prosperity spread, consumers began to crave more—more choices, more conveniences, and indeed, more Coca-Cola.

Responding to this desire, the Coca-Cola Company introduced a larger 10-ounce version of the bottle in 1955.

This new variant maintained the iconic contour shape while offering consumers more of the beverage they loved. But the company didn't stop there. Barely two years later, they pushed the envelope further, unveiling the "King Size" 12-ounce bottle.

Beyond Glass

As time marched on, the desire for convenience and diversity in packaging grew.

Consumers were no longer satisfied with one-size-fits-all solutions.

They wanted options tailored to their individual needs and lifestyles. Recognizing this shift, the Coca-Cola Company rose to the challenge, demonstrating a flexibility that mirrored the resilience of its iconic bottle.

Today, the unmistakable contour design of the Coca-Cola bottle has transcended its original glass medium.

It can be found molded into plastic, imprinted on aluminum cans, and even engraved into the surface of reusable metal bottles.


Coca-Cola ww2
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World War II was a period of profound disruption, a time when millions of men and women found themselves far from the comforts of home.

In the midst of this upheaval, the Coca-Cola Company embarked on a mission that extended beyond profit margins or market share.

Recognizing the unique power of their product to evoke a sense of home, they committed to delivering Coca-Cola to the military personnel stationed overseas.

Millions of bottles, with their distinctive green hue and hobble-skirt silhouette, made their way across oceans and continents.

They arrived in the hands of soldiers who found within them not just a refreshing drink, but a reminder of home, a moment of respite amidst the chaos of war.

Each sip was a connection to a world away from the battlefield, a world of cookouts and baseball games, of laughter and simplicity.

A Symbol of Comfort and Familiarity

In the grim surroundings of war, the Coca-Cola bottle stood out, a beacon of familiarity in a landscape of uncertainty.

The iconic 1915 contour bottle design, with its unmistakable silhouette, became a symbol of comfort and connection for the soldiers.

It was more than just a container; it was a vessel of memories, a promise of the peace and normalcy they were fighting to protect.

The sight of the bottle, the feel of its curves in their hands, the taste of the cola it contained—all these elements combined to create an emotional experience that transcended the physical act of drinking.

It reminded them of what they had left behind and what they were fighting for.

An Enduring Connection

The impact of this initiative went beyond the war years.

The emotional bond forged between the soldiers and the Coca-Cola bottle during the war endured long after the conflict had ended.

These men and women returned home carrying with them memories of camaraderie and resilience, of shared moments of comfort over a bottle of Coca-Cola. The bottle, once a simple container, had become a symbol of their shared experiences, a tangible link to their past.


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In the realm of art, the Coca-Cola bottle has found an elevated status, serving as a muse for artists across the globe.

Its distinctive silhouette and iconic green hue have proved a fertile ground for creative exploration, sparking inspiration and artistic expression.

Perhaps the most famous example of this is Andy Warhol's pop art.

Warhol, known for his fascination with consumer goods and their relationship with society, found in the Coca-Cola bottle a symbol that was both commonplace and extraordinary.

His artworks featuring the bottle transformed the everyday object into a commentary on consumerism, mass production, and the democratization of culture.

The Coca-Cola bottle, through Warhol's lens, became more than just a container; it became an embodiment of American culture.

An Ever-Present Prop

Beyond the world of art, the Coca-Cola bottle has found its way onto the silver screen and the television screen, becoming an omnipresent prop in popular media.

Whether it's Holly Golightly enjoying a morning Coca-Cola in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or the bottle making an appearance in countless other films and television shows, the Coca-Cola bottle has become a staple of visual storytelling.

The bottle serves as a familiar touchstone, a symbol of normalcy and comfort that can ground a scene, provide a moment of levity, or even act as a metaphor.

Its presence in media is a testament to its cultural penetration, an acknowledgment of its ubiquitous place in our daily lives.


coca-cola bottle collectible
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As the sands of time have worn away the years since the birth of the 1915 contour bottle, these original vessels of refreshment have grown increasingly scarce.

Like any scarce commodity in a world driven by supply and demand, the rarity of these bottles has sparked a passionate pursuit among collectors, transforming the once commonplace Coca-Cola bottle into a coveted collectible.

The allure of these vintage bottles goes beyond their physical form, the familiar curves, and the iconic green tint.

It lies in their origin, their connection to a defining moment in the history of a brand that has come to shape and reflect our culture. Each original bottle carries within it a story of innovation, of ambition, and of an era gone by.

The Value of Vintage

These vintage bottles, depending on their condition and rarity, can command impressive prices at auctions.

It is not uncommon for a well-preserved 1915 Coca-Cola bottle to fetch several hundred dollars.

Exceptionally rare specimens, especially those with unique markings or production errors, can easily venture into the thousands.

But for the collectors who bid on these relics, the value of these bottles is not defined solely by their auction price. It is also measured in the joy of the hunt, the satisfaction of owning a piece of history, and the pride of preserving a cultural icon.


Source: The Coca-Cola Company

The Coca-Cola Company, keenly aware of the historical significance of its iconic bottle, has taken steps to preserve and celebrate its storied past.

At the World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta, Georgia, visitors can explore the history and evolution of the brand through a comprehensive collection of memorabilia and interactive exhibits.

Among the highlights of the museum is a dedicated exhibit on the 1915 contour bottle, allowing visitors to appreciate the design's enduring influence on the world of advertising, art, and beyond.

The Lasting Impact

More than a century after its creation, the 1915 Coca-Cola bottle continues to captivate the imagination of consumers, artists, and designers alike.

The story of its creation, from the design contest to the cocoa pod inspiration, serves as a reminder that innovation often emerges from unlikely sources and that even the smallest details can have a lasting impact.