Over the years, The Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers have produced thousands of items for promotional or advertising purposes. For many of these items, we have very detailed information in the form of advertising price lists, promotional flyers or pamphlets that document their use, distribution and cost. However, there are always items that appear at auctions, flea markets and in private collections that do not have documentation, leaving lots of room for speculation as to the intended use of the material.
Such was the case more than 25 years ago when I received a letter from a collector inquiring about a series of paper mache figures that he had purchased from an antiques dealer. The figures were 1-2 foot tall and included baseball players, street vendors, children and fashionable ladies. The only specific link to Coca-Cola were the three figures holding contour bottles and a portion of what appeared to be a delivery wagon.
The only possible suggestion I could offer was that the figures were used to help promote a Company produced motion picture film called Refreshment Through the Years. In that film, there are sequences that show scenes from a baseball game and a delivery wagon similar to the one owned by the collector. It is certainly not an exact match, but it was the best I could do.
Fast forward to 2010 when this same collector wrote to me again, asking whether the Archives would be interested in assuming the curatorial responsibility for the figures, as he was downsizing. I still do not know why these materials were created or how they were used, but the figures are now in Atlanta, and I am glad to add them to our collection.
If anyone reading this column has any ideas as to how these figures were used, please let us know.