On May 8th of 1886 pharmacist Dr. John Stith Pemberton sold the very first glass of his new beverage creation. Named “Coca-Cola®” by Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper Frank Robinson (whose unique script can still be seen in Coke’s familiar logo today), it wasn’t a huge phenomenon at first.
Then in 1887, the Coca-Cola Company was incorporated with a man named Asa Candler as one of the partners. Candler was an innovative marketer, and one of his ideas was to distribute coupons like the one depicted above, offering a free fountain drink to the bearer. Candler supplied free syrup to soda fountain proprietors to cover the cost of the giveaways. Employees of the company and sales representatives helped to distribute the coupons. By 1895 the cola was being served in every state of the Union. Between 1894 and 1913 it is said that one in nine Americans had received a free Coke, over 8.5 million free drinks in all.
The next coupon to gain prominence was that of cereal producer C.W. Post in the early 1900s. It is said that his cents off coupons for Grape Nuts and other products were the first of that sort. During the Great Depression, coupon clipping became prevalent, and thereafter as supermarket chains strove to replace the corner markets, those chain stores used coupons to attract customers.
In 1957, The Nielsen Coupon Clearing House (later renamed the Manufacturers Coupon Control Center) was created to handle coupon redemption, and coupons were becoming a huge part of business. One-half of all American households were clipping coupons by 1965, and in the decade that followed, that number grew to three-quarters.
The method for delivering coupons has changed through the years, with downloadable coupons, email coupons, and even coupons distributed by texting to mobile devices nowadays. Instead of “clip and save” now it’s “click and save.”
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