Nov 17, 2013

Cokes and smiles in Vicksburg, Miss.

When the Young Curmudgeon and I decided to spend a day exploring Vicksburg, Miss., last summer, he was particularly excited to see the military park and battlefield.  But honestly, what I think sealed the deal for him was when he learned about the Coca-Cola Museum in town.

The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum is located in Vicksburg’s historic, restored downtown area.  More specifically, it’s on Washington Street, which has been transformed back to its brick surface and most of the boutique shops and galleries are located.  The streets are hilly and narrow (parking streetside can be a slight challenge), but the area is quite scenic, as the river meanders past only a few blocks west.  And driving down Washington Street in particular is a little like stepping back in time.    

Because of the restoration, you won’t find any flashy signs advertising the museum.  But you’ll know you’re there when you see the restored storefront for the Biendenharn Candy Co. 

Yep, I think we found it.

I won’t spoil much of the story, but it was here where Joseph Biedenharn opened a candy store in 1890 and shortly thereafter got the rights to sell Coke as a fountain drink.  In 1894, Biedenharn sealed his position in Coca-Cola history by becoming the first person to bottle Coke to try to satisfy an ever-growing demand. 

The museum looks like you’re stepping back into the 1890s candy shop.  It features a turn-of-the-19th Century soda fountain, an abundance of Coke memorabilia through the ages and a reproduction of the bottling works.  (As an aside, the men’s restroom features one of the oldest still-operating toilets I've ever seen – one with a pull chain to flush!) 

Here’s one of the early fountains they had on display …

And this apparatus is called a carbonator …

It's Coke.  You have to have that fizz. 

And as you’d expect, you can purchase a good old-fashioned Coca-Cola or a Coke float right on the premises.         

Now, you may be asking how big of a fan of Coke is the Young Curmudgeon?  Check out the shirt he wore the day we went to the museum. 

See, I promised smiles in the title of this post.  OK, maybe half-smiles.

For just $3.50 per person, the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum is a nice little diversion into our Americana and cultural history.  It was also my favorite stop in downtown Vicksburg.  If you only have time to hit one museum in Vicksburg’s downtown area, I suggest Coke is it.

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