John Reed

John REED, born in Indiana about 1879, moved with his family to Arkansas as a small child.  At the age of 19, he was an apprenticed to a pharmacist.  He attended a pharmacy college in St. Louis MO and after graduating served a four years apprenticeship.  He opened his own pharmacy in Marianna AR.

Reed moved his drugstore to Dyersburg in 1910 and brought the formula with him.  His first pharmacy was on the north side of the city's square but then moved to the corner of Mill and Court streets.
Later, it moved to Harrell Avenue, across from the cotton mill.

It was during the time that he operated this pharmacy that he received the formula from which he made Coke. Salesmen would come to the store and give owners the formulas for things they needed to sell and owners would buy their supplies from the salesmen.  It is believed that John Reed obtained the Coke formula from one of these salesmen.

Reed also had the formula for Dr. Pepper, then called Dr. Pepper's, but that formula called for grain alcohol and has long since been changed.

The formula attributed to Reed does not have mixing instructions with it.  It is probably impossible to buy some of the ingredients over the counter today.

6 drams (.75 ounce) of fluid extract of cola
2 ounces of citric acid
4 ounces of citrate of caffeine
30 pounds of sugar
2 pints of lime juice
1 ounce extract of vanilla
2 gallons of water

'Doc' Reed as he was known in Dyersburg was the oldest practicing pharmacist in the state of TN about 1964 when he retired at the age of 90.  He died in 1965 and his formula was apparently destroyed along with store records.  He has sold the store when he retired and it stayed in operation several years under the new ownership.

The formula was found in Dallas TX when Lee Williams, an 84-year-old resident of a nursing home gave it to a reporter.  Mr. Williams said he had kept the formula locked up until Coke changed the formula and he saw no reason to keep it secret.

Source: Dyer County Volume II - Past and Present


The following is from Steve Jennings:

My grandfather was John H. Reed. His birthdate was September, 1874, not 1879. (The story has it right when it says he retired in 1964 at age 90; basic math therefore makes his birthdate in 1874). By the way, he is buried in Fairview cemetery in Dyersburg; his headstone shows his birthdate as 1875, but my mother says he died in 1965 at age 91, again making his true birth year as 1874.

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© Lynn Pierce McCandless - August 3, 1998.