ATLANTA, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The hourglass Coca-Cola bottle, perhaps the most iconic image in popular culture, associated with the likes of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and even Santa Claus, turned 100 Monday
The slender and curved, all-glass bottle is among the first examples of a product that's been differentiated from its competition by its packaging. Even today Coca-Cola can be identified by that bottle shape, detailed in patent No. 48,160, granted by the U.S. Patent Office on November 15, 1915, to the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Ind.
The sale of Coca-Cola originated in an Atlanta pharmacy in the 1880s, then spread to soda dispensers throughout the South. An interest in making the drink widespread, and scrupulously uniform, led to the need for a bottle that could be easily made but also stood out from the competition.
The soda's makers didn't want just any bottle, they wanted one that identified the product as Coca-Cola and not Koka-Nola, Toka-Cola or many other imitators.
The bottle was designed by a four-man team at Root Glass Company and involved an element of research. Two glassmakers, Earl Dean and Clyde Edwards, went to a local library and found an illustration of a cocoa bean, a Coca-Cola ingredient, the elongated body and vertical ribs of which inspired the shape of the bottle.
Billions of bottles of worldwide sale later, the Coca-Cola bottle is synonymous with clean design, American imperialism, mass culture and an easily identified product. It has appeared in modern art by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Salvador Dali and others. A woman's dress design, the curve of a car fender or the contour of a guitar can have, in common parlance, a "Coke-bottle shape."
The shape of the bottle has evolved over the years, but proportions have remained exact. So has the public identity of Coca-Cola -- a bottle like no other, offering a product uniform around the world. The richest and poorest customers on Earth get the same drink.
Coca-Cola memorabilia is among the most "collectable" on earth, in part because there is so much of it. Advertising artwork, including some done by illustrator Norman Rockwell, and that bottle are among the artifacts currently featured in a "Coca-Cola: An American Original" exhibit currently on show at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.
Part of the Coca-Cola mystique involves Santa Claus, the holiday gift giver whose tradition dates back centuries. It is widely believed the traditional image of Santa Claus in the United States -- the portly physique, the beard, the red suit, the fur-trimmed hat -- was heavily influenced by a Coca-Cola illustration in which the jolly man is seen holding a Coke bottle. Whether Santa or the bottle is more famous is a matter of opinion.