Destination Louisiane: Coca-Cola Museum inside Monroe’s Biedenharn Museum & Gardens

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Did you know the first Coca-Cola was bottled by a man in Vicksburg? He eventually moved his business to Monroe, and the home he built was later turned into a museum.

The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens in Monroe is open for tours. There are three exhibits there: the Bible Museum, the historic home and gardens, and the Coca-Cola Museum. There’s so much to see, so we’re going to break this up into segments. Today, we are highlighting the Coke Museum.

Inside the Coca-Cola Museum, you’ll learn about the history of how one family bottled the first Coke. It started with Joseph Biedenharn.

He had been selling the syrup from the fountain in Vicksburg, but he had never put Coca-Cola in a bottle. In 1894, that all changed.

“They used this bottle for a few years and then they went to straight-sided bottle,” Biedenharn Museum & Gardens Executive Director Ralph Calhoun explained. “Then in 1916, they go to what we think of is the classic Coca-Cola bottle with the curve design — supposedly the best-known corporate symbol in the world. Joe was very much a part of that.”

The family soon moved to Monroe, selling candy and bottling Coke.

“By the 1990s, they were one of the sixth-largest bottling operations in the United States,” Calhoun added. “They are not just in Monroe and in Louisiana. They are in a good part of the South and southwest part of the country.”

The Coca Cola Museum is located near the historic home that once belonged to the Biedenharm’s. It’s been here for about 15 years. On display? Historical items and memorabilia.

“We’ve got calendars, we got serving trays, we have toys, maybe the thing people most interested in are historic bottles,” said Calhoun. “We also have artifacts that deal with Delta Airlines. The Biedenharn family were some of the first investors of Delta.”

Here’s what makes this museum even more unique…

“He didn’t start bottling coke until 1894,” Calhoun explained.

Take a peek at the soda fountain room.

“We have a soda jerk,” said Calhoun. “They tell you about the history of Coca-Cola, the history of the family and Coca-Cola, and they are very knowledgeable.”

The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday. And yes, you will have access to all three exhibits including the coke museum. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for seniors and military, and $3 for students.

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