Birthday: December 30, 1851
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Born Country: United States
Born in: Villa Rica, Georgia, United States
Famous as: Businessman
Spouse/Ex-: Lucy Elizabeth Howard (m. 1878)
father: Samuel Charles Candler
children: Asa Griggs Candler, Charles Howard Candler, Jr., Lucy Beall Candler Owens Heinz Leide, Walter T. Candler, William Candler
Died on: March 12, 1929
place of death: Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Cause of Death: Stroke
Notable Alumni: Emory University
U.S. State: Georgia
education: Emory University
Who was Asa Griggs Candler?
Asa Griggs Candler was American business tycoon, best remembered as the founder of the Coca Cola Company. Born to a prosperous landholder, he could not pursue his dream of studying medicine because of a downturn in the family’s fortune. Therefore, he decided to become druggist and eventually moved to Atlanta, where he started working for pharmacists, later opening his own pharmaceutical business. Shortly, he began to buy formulas and acquired considerable wealth by manufacturing and selling them. In 1888, he bought the formula of a sweet drink made out of coca, extracts of cola nut and damiana, which was being marketed as ‘Coca Cola’ by its inventor. On realizing its potential, he formed a corporation called ‘The Coca Cola Company’ and registered its trademark. He also brought about certain changes in the ingredients and began to produce it in larger quality, reaching every US state by 1895 and Europe by 1901. Also a philanthropist, he donated large sums of money to schools and universities.
Childhood & Early Life
Asa Griggs Candler was born on December 30, 1851, in Villa Rica, a city in the US state of Georgia. His father, Samuel Charles Candler, was a prosperous merchant and planter. He was also a member of the legislature of South Carolina. His mother's name was Martha Bernetta Beall Candler. Born eighth of his parents’ eleven children, Asa had seven brothers and three sisters.
Asa began his formal education shortly before his fifth birthday. But by the time he was ten year old, the Civil War broke out, depleting his family’s income, as a result of which he was taken out of school to be educated at home.
Raised with firm work ethics and strong religious belief, he later gave up a chance to study at Emory College in favor of his brother William because the latter wanted to be clergy. He himself wanted to study medicine; but knew that his family would not be able to support him.
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Unable to pursue medicine, Asa Griggs Candler decided to become a pharmacist. Around 1870, he began working as an apprentice to Doctor Best and Doctor Kirkpatrick, doing various works for them, gaining basic knowledge about the trade. Later, he moved to Atlanta, where he hoped to find better opportunities.
In 1876, while working in a drugstore in Atlanta, Candler opened a pharmacy called ‘Hallman and Candler’ in partnership with Marcellus Hallman. Soon, he started buying and manufacturing patent items, such as ‘blood balm’ and perfumes, making huge profits out of them. Eventually he bought out his partner’s share.
Establishing Coca Cola
While Asa Griggs Candler was busy expanding his business, a biochemist named John Stith Pemberton was trying to develop a formula for a morphine-free painkiller. He eventually developed an alcohol based formula that contained among other ingredients coca, extracts of cola nut and damiana, and began selling it as a medical beverage.
Continuing to work on the formula, Pemberton produced a non-alcoholic alternative in 1886 and while doing so, he accidentally mixed the base formula with carbonated water. Intrigued by his discovery, he decided to sell the non-alcoholic formula as a ‘fountain drink’.
As suggested by his partner and book-keeper, Frank Mason Robinson, he began to market the drink as Coca Cola. It sold 25 US gallons in 1886 and 1,049 US gallons in 1887.
In 1888, because of his ill health Pemberton decided to sell the formula. However, it was no more a secret because he had by then shared it with his business associates. Nonetheless, Candler was so intrigued by the sweet drink that he bought the recipe possibly for $2,300.
Once he had bought the recipe, Candler started working on it. He not only changed some of the original ingredients, but also improved the manufacturing process, which in turn improved his flavor. Eventually in 1891, he started marketing the product as Coca Cola.
By 1892, the sales had boosted ten folds. In the same year, he sold his pharmaceutical business for $50,000 and began to concentrate on his new business, forming a corporation called ‘The Coca Cola Company’ in partnership with his brother John S. Candler, Frank Robinson and two other associates.
Starting with an initial capital of $100,000, the Company registered its trademark, ‘Coca Cola’ in the United States Patent Office on January 31, 1893. Also, in the same year, they paid their first dividend at $20 per share.
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In 1894, they established another plant at Dallas, which was their first plant outside Atlanta. Also in the same year, the first bottling plant was established in Vicksburg, Mississippi, by Joseph A. Biedenharn, who started selling the products in farms and lumber camps up along the River Mississippi.
By 1895, Coca Cola was being sold in every US state. They now had plants in other cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. In 1899, they started exporting to Cuba and in 1901 to Europe.
In 1916, Asa Griggs Candler retired from day-to-day management of the company in favor of his son, Charles Howard Candler, who succeeded him as the President. In 1919, he handed over most of his stocks to his children, thus ending decades old involvement with the company.
In 1904, Asa Griggs Candler began the construction of Atlanta’s tallest building, a seventeen storied skyscraper called ‘Candler Building’, completing the work by 1906. Also in 1906, he founded ‘Central Bank and Trust Corp', which ran independently until it was merged into Citizens & Southern National Bank in 1922.
In 1916, he won the mayoral election, taking office as the Mayor of Atlanta in 1917. When in May, a great fire engulfed the city, destroying much of it; he rose to the occasion, not only balancing the city’s budget and coordinating the rebuilding work, but also by providing personal loans.
Helping to develop the Druid Hill area was also another of his contributions. He also donated large sums of money to hospitals, schools and universities, financing the relocation of Emory College from Oxford (Georgia) to Atlanta, re-chartering it as Emory University.
Family & Personal Life
On January 15, 1878, Candler married Lucy Elizabeth Howard, daughter of George Jefferson Howard, one of his earliest employers in Atlanta. They had four sons and one daughter, namely, Charles Howard Candler, Asa Griggs Candler, Jr., Walter T. Candler , William Candler and Lucy Beall Candler.
In 1919, his wife, Lucy Elizabeth, died. On June 22, 1923, he married Mae Little Ragin, a widow with twin daughters. The marriage was not successful and Candler filed for divorce in June 1924; but dropped the suit in December. They remained married till his death.
In 1926, he suffered a stroke, from which he could not recover. On March 12, 1929, he died at Atlanta’s Wesley Memorial Hospital and was buried at Westview Cemetery.
Candler Park, located in Atlanta, bears his legacy till now. Moreover, there are several Candler Buildings, located in various cities such as Atlanta, New York City and Baltimore, which remind us of his contributions.