Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: New Coke

We have all experienced it—dates and events that define a moment in our lives.  We recount stories and experiences with passion and detailed description.  For example, current college students might have grown up with hearing stories of the assassination of JFK or John Lennon from their parents.  Or, newcomers to western North Carolina will definitely hear stories of the Blizzard of ’93 from those who lived through it.

Coca-Cola TruckHowever, no other date in U.S. history is more significant than April 23, 1985*.  Two words: New Coke.  It was a Tuesday, and in Atlanta, Georgia, a warm breeze wafted through the city.  According to The Farmer’s Almanac that day, the heat rose to 82.9 degrees Fahrenheit…but temperatures were about to skyrocket!  John Pemberton concocted Coca-Cola, a drink patented as an “esteemed brain tonic and intellectual beverage,” in 1886 in a small drugstore near Atlanta, Georgia.  Fast forward 125 years and the Coca-Cola Company has over 3500 world-wide products, is available in over 200 countries, and reaches over 1 million people per quarter through social media today.  That remarkable business success almost came crashing down in late April 1985 with the announcement that the Coca-Cola Company would be altering the trademarked formula amid slipping sales.  In attempts to add some energy into soda sales, Coca-Cola decided to re-brand the classic Coke formula as a sweeter, smoother soda in attempts to compete with the rise of PepsiCo’s Pepsi-Cola and the “new generation.”

The idea to redevelop the secret soda formula did not come lightly.  The Coca-Cola Company conducted over 200,000 consumer taste tests, with the majority stating they preferred the new taste.  What the company did not account for was the cultural identity tied to Coca-Cola.  It was not a mere soda, fizzy and refreshing, but an icon of all things American…just like apple pie, baseball, and Chevrolet.  For the next 79 days, response to New Coke was overwhelming and heard from every corner of the nation.  The company’s customer service number, 800-GET-COKE, was inundated with complaints—receiving roughly 1500 calls a day compared with 400 a day before New Coke.  Company employees, ranging from CEO to janitorial staff, were held accountable for the atrocious blunder.  Disgruntled consumers formed protest groups, some to demand a return of the classic taste and some to honor a fallen icon.  The Old Cola Drinkers of America recruited over 100,000 supporters in efforts to bring back the traditional formula.  And, much like the recent aftermath of Hostess announcing the end of Twinkies, dedicated Coca-Cola customers began hoarding the classic soda in basements and closets.

Finally, on July 11, 1985, The Coca-Cola Company announced the return of “old” Coke, under the name Coca-Cola Classic.  New Coke did not initially fade into obscurity but was instead marketed alongside Coke Classic with a very separate marketing campaign aimed at a younger generation of cola drinkers.  New Coke’s name eventually changed to Coke II in 1992.  By 1998, Coke II could only be found in small, scattered groceries in the Midwest and by 2002 was discontinued altogether in the United States.

To learn more about New Coke, the Coca-Cola Company, or other awesome things available at the library–come check us out!

 *okay, so maybe it’s not the most significant date in U.S. History…but it’s up there.

Bibliography:

Isdell, Edward N.  Inside Coca-Cola: a CEO’s Life Story of Building the World’s Most Powerful Brand. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011.

Ross, Michael E. “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at The Time: New Coke, 20 Years Later, and Other Marketing Fiascoes.” NBCNews.com, 22 April 2005. Web. 16 April 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7209828/ns/us_news/t/it-seemed-good-idea-time/#.UW1rWrVwooI>

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/coca-cola-stories-new-coke

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Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

The streets are crowded; people line the sidewalks in anticipation as zydeco music  plays in the distance.  Floats idle at the starting point decorated in splashes of green, blue, and purple while riders make last-minute adjustments to costumes.  A female voice hushes the chatter of the crowds.  She yells, “laisser le bon temps rouler!”  Suddenly, music, lights, dancing, and floats all come alive; the Queen of the Carnival has just proclaimed “let the good times roll!”

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is a celebration of many things.  From its pagan roots as a celebration of the renewed fertility of the earth to marking the beginning of Lent in Christianity, Madri Gras has come to represent various cultural and religious histories.  Mardi Gras originated a a celebration of the coming Spring and its renewal of the land.  Disguises or wearing clothes of the opposite sex were used as protection against evil spirits that were believed to roam the land.  These practices were embraced by early Christianity as a means for release from the hardships of winter.  Costumes became more elaborate, often invoking images of the devil or parodies of the upper class and the behavior of excess became so intense that in 1511 England passed an act denouncing disguises and wearing “visours” (masks).  Mardi Gras was essentially abolished in England between 1649 and 1660.

Italy, the epicenter of Mardi Gras carnivals during the eighteenth century, celebrated with masked balls, extravagant processions, street entertainments, parades, and ostentatious costumes.  Students from the French Academy were instrumental in organizing masquerades during the carnival between 1730 and 1740.  Although clergy continually condemned carnival celebrations as pagan and idolatrous, the remainder of Europe carried on with the traditions.

Although the origins of Mardi Gras stem from Europe, no other city is more identified with Mardi Gras celebrations than New Orleans, Louisiana thanks to French settlers.  Although much of Louisiana was under Spanish control in the late 1760s, New Orleans was founded by and remained predominately French.  Because of the city’s French upbringing, Mardi Gras celebrations were tradition by 1803 when Louisiana was purchased and incorporated into the United States. On February 27, 1827 the city of New Orleans held it’s first carnival celebration when costumed and masked students paraded and danced through the streets.  It was not until 1857 that the first truly organized Mardi Gras parade graced the streets of New Orleans thanks to a secret society known as the “Mistick Krewe of Comus.”  Over the years, the Mardi Gras carnival has increased the size and elaborateness of floats, music, decorations, “throws” (such as the infamous bead necklaces), and costumed participants.  The festival has also ballooned from a one day event into week-long celebrations, and occasionally lasting even longer.  Although many tourists equate Mardi Gras with Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, no parade has graced that area of New Orleans since 1979 when the streets were deemed to narrow to navigate.

To learn more about Mardi Gras or to check out other awesome resources,

feel free to swing by the library!

Bibliography:

History Channel. “New Orleanians take to the streets for Mardi Gras.” History Channelhttp://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/new-orleanians-take-to-the-streets-for-mardi-gras (accessed February 24, 2012).

“Mardi Gras.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (November 2011): 1. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 24, 2012).

Ribeiro, Aileen. “THE OLD AND NEW WORLDS OF MARDI GRAS.” History Today 36, no. 2 (February 1986): 30. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 24, 2012).

Posted in Monday Morsels

Holiday Morsel: A Brief History of Christmas Lights

House decorated by impressive array of Xmas lightsWhether  fans of traditional understated white bulbs or colorful Griswold-esque excess, for many families lighting the family Christmas tree is an anticipated holiday tradition on par with exchanging gifts and waistline-threatening feasts. This was not always the case, however, as safety concerns and high costs hindered early efforts to popularize Christmas lights and it was not until 1917 that the tradition truly took hold.

The first strand of electric Christmas lights was created in 1882 by Edward H. Johnson, a friend of Thomas Edison and employee of Edison Electric, who decorated his family tree with 80 red, white and blue bulbs. Families at that time typically lighted their trees with glass candle holders or metal candle lanterns, which were attached to branches using clips, pins or elaborate clay counterweights. The risk of fire posed by both methods was considerable and families often kept a pail of water next to the tree in case of accidental conflagrations. However, trees were usually lighted for only a half-hour at most and it was considered such an important event that family members gathered around the tree during the entire time, conversing and gazing at the lights.

Despite their novelty, Christmas lights were met with some resistance by the public. There was a general fear of electric power, and this distrust was fed by sensationalized accounts of electrocutions. In addition, without electrical outlets lighting one’s tree required hiring the services of an electrician, or “wireman,”  and could cost the 1900s equivalent of $2000. President Grover Cleveland helped popularize Christmas lighting by requesting lights for his White House family tree in 1895, and in 1903 General Electric began marketing pre-wired lighting kits. In 1917, Albert Sadacca, a teenager whose family owned a novelty lighting business, suggested selling brightly colored strands of Christmas lights in the store. The offering was extremely popular and Albert and his brothers soon organized what in the 1920s became NOMA Electric Co., a leader in the Christmas light industry until the 1960s.

Bibliography:

“An Abridged History of Christmas Lights.” Harrowsmith Country Life (11908416) 34.215 (2010): 14. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.

Sloat, Warren. “The Wizard Of Your Christmas Tree.” American Heritage 54.6 (2003): 36. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 14 Dec. 2011.

Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: A Christmas Carol

“Marley was dead: to begin with.”

first edition, 1843

Six words, haunting in nature, begin one of the most beloved Christmas tales of all time.  Interestingly, Charles Dickens had something other in mind when he penned the work A Christmas Carol in 1843. Some critics say that Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol as seasonal sentiment highlighting Christmas traditions of years gone by. Others contend that it is a reflection upon Victorian England, emphasizing its social and economic inequalities.

England during the Victorian Era (1837-1901) was not all theatrical plays, brass bands, and Great Exhibitions.  Major social, cultural, and economic disparities came to light, such as child labor, prostitution, and severe poverty.  A product of poverty and child labor himself, Dickens strove to highlight the issues plaguing the lower class throughout his works.

In 1843, after reading a parliamentary report exposing the realities of child labor in factory and coal mine work, Dickens wrote to one of the commissioners pledging to write a pamphlet titled An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.  Four days later he altered his plans and promised to deliver “a sledge hammer” that would “come down with twenty times the force – twenty thousand times the force” (Dickens).  Dickens’ sledgehammer turned out to become his famous A Christmas Carol, a work of fiction that would expose the economic and cultural differences between the upper and working classes, harsh living conditions for the poor, and the governmental practices that kept these conditions a reality.  Feverishly written in the course of six weeks and published at his own expense, the 6000 copies of A Christmas Carol sold out on the first day.  While A Christmas Carol did not enact the social reform Dickens hoped for immediately, it did lend itself to transforming “the Christmas holiday from a church service into a universal season of generosity, gift giving, and family tradition” (Summerhays).  Dickens’ collective works would later alter the course of social and economic norms, as he once dreamed.

Print copies available in the Library

Digital and Downloadable, full-text versions available from:

Bibliography:

“A Christmas Carol.”  Novels for Students. Ed. Michael LaBlanc. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001. 65-95. Print.

Dickens, Charles.  “To Dr. Southwood Smith.” 10 March 1843.  Letter in A Christmas Carol. Ed. Richard Kelly. Ontario, Canada: Broadview Press, 2003. 212.

Summerhays, James. “The Dickens Sledgehammer that Forever Changed Christmas.”  Meridian Magazine 28 December 2004. Web.

Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: The Statue of Liberty

Happy Birthday, Lady Liberty!  You’re looking good at 125 years.

In 1983, Illusionist David Copperfield made it disappear.  Her 21-foot torch provided the meeting place for Spiderman and his friend, the Human Torch.  She has rescued America from the evils of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.  And, she has served as a historical backdrop, satirical fodder, and an object of destruction in Planet of the Apes, Spaceballs, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, X-Men, Madagascar, The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and countless other films.

The Statue of Liberty was officially unveiled on October 28, 1886 in New York Harbor on what was known as Bedloe’s Island (whose name later changed to Liberty Island in 1956).  Including the concrete foundation, the Statue of Liberty weighs in at over 27,000 tons and is constructed of steel and copper.  Lady Liberty’s copper torch, which was replaced in 1986, is covered in 24k. gold leaf so it reflects sunlight during the daytime and floodlights during the evening.

The Statue of Liberty was envisioned by famed French abolitionist and scholar, Edouard de Laboulaye, to represent the alliance between France and the United States during the American Revolution in the 1770s.  America would be responsible for funding and building the pedestal while France would take responsibility to build, transport, and assemble the statue itself with the unveiling scheduled for the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution.  However, due to obstacles in funding on both sides of the Atlantic, the dedication of the statue was dedicated in 1886, making the centennial gift ten years late.  Nonetheless, The Statue of Liberty has come to symbolize freedom, new beginnings, friendship, and hope to Americans and immigrants alike.  And with the help of future restorations and preservation, The Statue of Liberty should withstand another 125+ years.

For more information about The Statue of Liberty

(like the fact that the statue was supposed to be a peasant woman standing at the mouth of the Suez Canal in Egypt)

or other awesome library resources, feel free to swing by the library!

Bibliography:
Statue Statistics. National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 16 Aug. 2006. Web.  1 Nov. 2011.

Baker, Kevin. America: The Story of US, an Illustrated History. New York: A & E Television Networks, LLC, 2010. Print.

Stokely, Anne.  “Statue of Liberty.”  Our States: Geographic Treasures (2011): 1-4. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 1 Nov. 2011

Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: “The Queen of the Mist”

Today is October 24.  Do you know what happened in history on this day?

In 1648, the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, officially ending the Thirty Years War in Europe.

In 1861, Western Union completed the first transcontinental telegraph line, stretching from Washington, D.C. to California, with a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln.

In 1969, Richard Burton bought Elizabeth Taylor a 69-carat diamond ring for $1.5 million dollars and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid opened in theaters across the United States.

In 2003, the Concorde, a turbojet-powered supersonic aircraft, completed its final flight.

But, did you also know that on October 24, 1901 Annie Edson Taylor became the first woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel…and survive?? 

"The Queen of the Mist"

Annie Taylor was a schoolteacher from Michigan in desperate need of money.  After losing her husband David Taylor during the Civil War and being unemployed, Annie was concerned with the financial standing of her future.  Desperate to not spend her remaining years in the poorhouse, Annie secured herself inside a 4 ½-foot oak barrel dubbed “The Queen of the Mist” and headed over Niagara Falls.  Due to the natural currents and flow of the Niagara River, Annie emerged with minor injuries near the Canadian site, Horseshoe Falls.  Although she enjoyed public adoration and speaking engagements in the weeks following her daredevil stunt, Annie eventually died in poverty in an infirmary in Niagara County, N.Y.  While she did not receive the fame and money she had hoped for, Annie’s death-defying achievement has been memorialized through film, written word, dramatic recreations, and musicals.

The Fall by Emma Donoghue: http://www.stylist.co.uk/life/books/fall-by-emma-donoghue

Niagara: Miracles, Myths, and Magic IMAX film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091626/

Queen of the Mist musical: http://www.transportgroup.org/season/now-playing

 For more information about Annie Edson Taylor or to check out other tales of daredevil stunts, feel free to stop by the library!

Bibliography:

Barrell Tony, “Unsung Hero.” The Sunday Times (August 23, 2009): 7. Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed October 20, 2011).

Joseph Nathan Kane, Famous First Facts (New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1981), 432, 1181.

United Press International, “The Almanac — weekly.” UPI Quirks in the News (October 18, 2011): Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed October 21, 2011).

GR. “Topics today.” Newcastle Herald, The (includes the Central Coast Herald), October 23, 2007., pg. 9, Newspaper Source Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed October 21, 2011).

Posted in Monday Morsels

Monday Morsels: Liquid Paper

This Monday’s morsal moresel morsel gives a nod to a litle little office helper that got it’s its start back in the 1950s: Liquid Paper.

Bette Nesmith Graham, an executive secretary at Dallas Bank and Trust, desperately needed a better way to correct typing errors.  Having never attended secretarial school, Graham struggled daily with typos and corrections…even more so when IBM introduced their new electric typewriter with carbon film ribbons.  While these machines certainly made the daunting tasks of correspondences and memos easier for secretaries nationwide, making corrections seemed near impossible due to the messy nature of the new carbon film ribbons.  After watching an artist paint over his mistakes while decorating the bank’s front windows for Christmas, Graham developed the idea to paint over her typing mistakes.

Mimicking the artists’ techniques, Graham concocted a mixture of a white, water-based paint thin enough to paint over her typos but thick enough to cover the mistakes.  She even managed to experiment with the paint mixture to match the exact shade of stationery.  Once news spread of Graham’s correction fluid, other bank secretaries were willing to pay for bottles of her invention…eventually leading to Mistake Out in 1956.  Once demand and production of Mistake Out outgrew her small home kitchen and garage, Graham patented her invention and officially named it Liquid Paper.

In 1958 when a serious typing mistake led to her termination from the bank, Graham began manufacturing, bottling, and selling Liquid Paper full-time.  Thanks to a description in the office trade magazine The Office  and a review of her product in the magazine The Secretary, Graham sold her first major order to General Electric Company for 400+ bottles.

The interesting history of Liquid Paper and Bette Nesmith Graham doesn’t end here!

(did you know that Bette’s son Michael Nesmith was a member of the ’60s group The Monkees!?!?)

For more information on this, or to check out other awesome resources,

feel free to stop by the library.

Bibliography:

Derks, Scott. Working Americans 1880-2010 Volume XI: Inventors & Entrepreneurs.  Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, Inc.; 2010,  339-402.

“History” Liquid Paper. http://www.liquidpaper.com/about_us.html (accessed October 7, 2011)

“Liquid Paper”  Lemelson-MIT PRogram. http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/nesmith.html (accessed October 7, 2011)