If you’re looking for a place to learn about an interesting facet of history that can also serve you a refreshing beverage, then there’s no better place than the Biedenharn Coca-Cola® Museum. This museum honors Vicksburg native Joseph Biedenharn and his significant contribution in making Coca-Cola® the soda behemoth it has become today. Learn the basics of his story and what attractions there are to enjoy at the museum with the help of Visit Vicksburg.
Before turning into a Coca-Cola® bottling operation, the Biedenharn family initially opened their business to sell candy and shoes. Joseph Biedenharn was introduced to the soft drink business after the founder of The Coca-Cola® Company, Asa Griggs Candler, asked him to become the area’s supplier for Coca-Cola® syrup. In those days, the only way to drink Coca-Cola® was from soda fountains that were usually only located at stores in town. Biedenharn agreed to start selling the syrup, but soon realized that people in the country weren’t able to enjoy the drink. He started bottling the finished product to make it more accessible and easier to transport. After he came up with his revolutionary idea, Biedenharn shipped a case to Candler, who gave him the go-ahead to continue the practice. Thanks to Biedenharn, the popularity of Coca-Cola® skyrocketed and bottling became the standard method used by the entire company.
Starting the Museum
The bottling operation took place in the original storefront located in the heart of downtown Vicksburg until 1938, when increased demand led to a new Coca-Cola® plant opening elsewhere in town. The old building was sold and used for various other businesses until 1979, when the Biedenharn family bought it back. The family renovated the space to include various exhibits and photographs that paid tribute to their family’s contributions to Coca-Cola®. They then donated the building to the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, which continues to run the museum today.
Features and Exhibits
The Biedenharn Coca-Cola® Museum is packed with historical artifacts, memorabilia, and souvenirs related to the history of Coca-Cola® bottling, and the company as a whole. There are specific exhibits on the history of the Biedenharn family and how the bottling process has developed. When Joseph Biedenharn decided to start bottling Coca-Cola®, he used bottles embossed with his own company’s name that he already had for selling soda water. A rubber disk was used to seal the bottles, but the rubber affected the taste of the drink, so the contents had to be consumed quickly.
The museum also features a marble soda fountain from the early 1900s that used the syrup Joseph Biedenharn originally sold. These fountains held not just Coca-Cola®, but other flavors like grape, peach, sarsaparilla, and peppermint. Get a taste of a classic treat with the Coca-Cola® floats served up in the restored candy store that honors the humble beginnings of the Biedenharn’s business. Along with the refreshing drinks, you’ll also be able to grab treats like old-fashioned candy sticks, rock candy, and gummy bears.
Plan Your Trip to Vicksburg
For fans of history with a sweet tooth, the Biedenharn Coca-Cola® Museum should be one of your first stops in Vicksburg. The museum is located right in the downtown area, putting you near several other great attractions at which you can spend your day. The Attic Gallery and H.C. Porter Gallery are popular stores where you can help support local artists, or you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in town. If you’re not sure what you want to see while in town, check out one of Visit Vicksburg’s suggested trips, which can help you plan your itinerary.