Justine Fletcher (our processing Archivist) and I flew to Farmington Maine this week to identify and catalog a collection of items from our longtime bottler in the city. Despite the April date, there was still a foot of snow on the ground with some drifts still several feet high. The bottling plant was pretty interesting and had been in the same location since 1922. It was originally a home that had been expanded several times over the years.
During lunch at the Harvest House Restaurant (a fine establishment serving Coca-Cola products) we were discussing the city of Farmington. I was curious to see what the population was so I “Googled” the city to get the info. If you were wondering, the population is over 7,000, but one of the results that caught my eye mentioned the Nordica Auditorium. I immediately thought of our Lillian Nordica ads and asked our waitress if she knew if the famed opera singer had a connection to the city. The waitress had never heard of her, but it did not take many on-line searches to discover that Farmington, Maine was Lillian Nordica’s birthplace and there was even a museum in her honor. Our files indicate that The Coca-Cola Company had contributed to the restoration of the Nordica museum in the 1940s.
If you like our waitress, are wondering who Lillian Nordica was, she was a famed opera star who performed in the finest venues around the world. She was born in Farmington on December 12th, 1857. She made her concert debut in 1876 and in 1879, sang her first operatic role in La Traviata in Italy. Closer to home, Nordica began her career with the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1887. She died in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 10th, 1914 while on a world tour.
Lillian Nordica was one of the fist celebrity endorsers for The Coca-Cola Company. Music hall performer Hilda Clark began appearing in ads around 1900, and Nordica was used in ads beginning in 1904. Nordica was also featured in our first national magazine ad in 1905. The ad was the back page of publications like Ladies Home Journal and Munsey’s Magazine. This was also the first national ad to feature a coupon for a free sample of Coca-Cola. She was the celebrity face for the Company for a number of years. In our recent Advertising Icon Bracket Challenge, Nordica made it past Sprite Boy in round one only to lose to the Contour Bottle in the second round.
Over lunch, as we began to piece together the connections between Farmington, Maine and Lillian Nordica, I was really excited and we called the museum immediately to see if we could arrange a visit to the Nordica Homestead. Unfortunately, the museum is closed until the summer so we could not see it, but we drove out to the site for some photos. The snowdrift around the sign was nearly three feet tall, so I can understand why they only open in the summer!
Since we could not visit the museum that day, the Nordica Homestead is on my 'Coke Bucket List.'
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