The Origin of the Coca-Cola Bottle's Green Color
© 2012 Blaine Martin
The birth of the famous bottle
Chapman J. Root moved to Terre Haute, Indiana in 1900 and opened the Root Glass Works a year later in 1901. The company proved to be a great success, employing as many as 825 people by 1912. The glass company not only suppled bottles to the United States, but also to Europe and Central and South America. Naturally, Mr. Root also opened a Coca-Cola bottling.
At the turn of the century, the fledging soft drink bottling industry was booming, and every brand and every bottler in every town wanted their own bottle. There was no visual difference between Coca-Cola bottler's bottles and other companies beginning to mimic the Coca-Cola product and bottle - right down to the diamond shaped paper label. By 1913, The Coca-Cola Company began seeking a distinctive bottle design that looked like nothing else in the market.
During the hot 1913 summer, when the plant was shut down due to heat, a team consisting of Chapman Root, William Root, Alexander Samuelson, Clyde Edwards, Roy Hurt and Earl Dean, set about to create a new bottle design for Coca-Cola. After research at the local library , the cocoa pod (which was innocently mistaken as a coca pod) was chosen as a design source because of its distinctive ridges. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Coca-Cola Company's design competition between its bottle suppliers was won by The Root Glass Company , and the new bottle patented on November 16, 1915.
Although the bottle patent was issued to to Alexander Samuelson as plant supervisor and a representative of the glass company , it is generally considered that Earl Dean, the machinist, is largely responsible for the original design. For his contributions, Mr. Dean was given a "lifetime" job at the Root Glass Company which only lasted until the mid-1930's when Root was bought out by the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.
The green color
Today, the "Coca-Cola bottle green" color is nearly as synonymous with the drink as the bottle shape itself.
This color was a natural result of the copper and minerals found in the sand that Root used to make his bottles (including the Coca-Cola bottle that his company patented). The sand came from 160 acres that Root purchased west of Greencastle in the Fern Cliffs area of Putnum County, Indiana. Root built a plant on site at the foot of the sandstone cliffs. A nearby railroad spur serviced the plant and carried the processed sand to Terre Haute to be melted and formed into bottles.
For nearly a decade, the Root Glass Company quarried some 20,000 tons of sandstone a year from the site. Bottles made elsewhere, by other companies. would have to augment their bottles color by adding additional minerals to achieve the original color provided by the Fern Cliffs sandstone.
Chapman Root's 1916 contract with Coca-Cola outlined that he was to receive 5 cents for every 144 bottles made. He died in 1945 as one of Indiana's richest men. In 1982, when the Root family sold its 57.5 percent stock interest in the Associated Coca-Cola Bottling Company its value was over 417 million dollars.
The Root Glass Co. bought 160 acres west of Greencastle in the Fern Cliffs area of Putnum County, Indiana in the early 1900s. It was the natural occurring minerals in the sandstone of the local cliffs that gave the glass its color.
Historical marker in Terre Haute, Indiana near the site of the Root Glass Factory.
Left: The original design of the Coca-Cola bottle. It was too wide in circumference to fit the bottling machinery, so it was slimmed down to resemble the bottle we know today. Right: A 1915 pencil sketch by Earl R. Dean of the original Coca-Cola bottle and its protoype.
The Root Glass Company at the northeast corner of Third and Voorhees streets in Terre Haute around 1903.
A circa 1920 photograph of The Coca-Cola Bottling Company that Chapman Root began in 1904.