Benjamin Franklin Thomas 1860-1914


Chattanooga businessman and industrialist Benjamin F. Thomas pioneered the development of the Coca-Cola bottling industry in America. A native of Maysville, Kentucky, Thomas began his business career as a bank clerk, stone quarry operator, and manager of a hosiery mill. In 1887 he graduated from the University of Cincinnati law school and moved to Chattanooga at the encouragement of a fellow Cincinnati graduate, E. Y. Chapin. While serving in the Spanish-American War, Thomas was inspired by a popular bottled Cuban fruit drink with the idea of bottling a similar carbonated beverage in America. In 1899 he and partner Joseph Brown Whitehead convinced Asa Candler, president of the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, to give them the exclusive rights to bottle Coca-Cola, then widely available only as a drugstore fountain drink. John T. Lupton of Chattanooga became a third partner, and the first bottling plant opened later that summer.

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