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Famous Buildings / July 29, 2017

As a historian in Atlanta for the AHA annual meeting, you will no doubt sense the presence of one of the city’s oldest and most influential corporations, the Coca-Cola Company. Whether in advertising or the products themselves, Coca-Cola’s brands are conspicuous throughout their home city. The power of the company can be detected in the city’s physical landscape: from the corporation’s large campus along North Avenue; to its new downtown information technology offices; to the building that housed the company’s former museum in Five Points; to the new company museum, aquarium, civil rights museum, and neighboring park, all built on land donated or owned by the company on the former site of the 1996 Coca-Cola Olympic City.

Numerous institutions and locations in and around Atlanta have also been shaped by the Coca-Cola Company, including the airport, the arts center, Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control, and the various buildings and parks named after its leaders, not to mention the neighborhoods and businesses shaped by dealings with Atlanta’s Trust Company Bank, or the “Coca-Cola Bank, ” as it was called because it was run by executives of the soft drink company. No wonder then that former mayor, William Hartsfield, who had once been the personal secretary to Coca-Cola CEO Robert Woodruff, called Atlanta “Coca-Cola City.”1

Coca-Cola bottling plant in Bonn, Germany (1953). Wikimedia Commons.

While nowhere near this scale, many metropolitan areas around the world have been shaped by the physical presence of the Coca-Cola Company. The company expanded globally by producing bottled drinks in local markets rather than exporting them directly from the United States, resulting in bottling plants and factories around the world. So, while Coca-Cola is deeply rooted in its Atlanta home (although officially incorporated in the corporate tax haven of Wilmington, Delaware), the company regularly exerted the logic of its franchise system to suggest that it was a local enterprise wherever it went. This required significant cultural work, and Coca-Cola’s mid-century international advertising came to rely heavily on images of bottling plants to situate the multinational company and its products as central to local development.

The Coca-Cola Company’s post-World War II advertising in international markets often featured these modern plants with gleaming glass bottles rolling off production lines or glistening with condensation as they emerged from electric refrigeration. As new plants opened in Colombian cities, for example, the Coca-Cola Export Corporation distributed a pamphlet illustrating its manufacturing to the surrounding community with a cover boasting, “Continuous Quality Is Quality You Trust.”2 With uniform Coca-Colas marching out of clean and bright factories, taglines promised “Always the Same Quality, Always the Same Taste.” To consumers, such ads suggested standardization of production and of product, both hygienic and modern, assured by industrialization and the Coca-Cola trademark.

Source: blog.historians.org