Coke & American Diversity-It’s the Real Thing

vintage illustration Coke ad

“Hospitality-So Easy and Welcome with Coke” vintage Coca Cola Ad 1948
Recently, some very inhospitable reactions have bubbled up over Coca Colas multilingual rendition of America the Beautiful

Real America is causing a controversy for some real Americans.

Coca Cola’s multilingual Superbowl commercial celebrating American diversity has stirred up xenophobic rage across social media.

In the great cultural cauldron of 21st century America there still seems to be one basic ingredient to being a real American…. English-speaking, heterosexual, and Caucasian.

vintage illustration Coke ad family picnic

Vintage Coke ad 1946

Once upon a time no one reinforced this more than that all American beverage Coca Cola.

Their sentimental mid-century ads  portraying an America that  existed primarily  in our Norman Rockwell fueled fantasies, were as syrupy sweet as the elixir they sold. Like all advertising at the time, their heartwarming illustrations  of small town America were a color and ethnic free zone.

Well apparently that old-fashioned recipe for prejudice is still being used by some real Americans who are outraged at a Coca Cola commercial showing real America. The spot  features people from diverse backgrounds singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages.

vintage illustration Coke and soldier and family singing

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1950


The internet  was abuzz with angry comments after the ad appeared, creating a deluge of pseudo patriotic  hashtags  to break out on twitter. The outrage at “America the Beautiful” being sung in anything but English  resulted in some  calling  for a boycott of  Coke, that most American of products.

 vintage illustration baseball game coke ad

Coke is as American as apple pie and baseball
Vintage Coca Cola ad

vintage illustration coke ad  group gathered celebrating Easter

Face the Facts

The fact is, some conservative pundits are uncomfortable with the look of America and its diversity.

The fact is, the America Coke displayed, is the Real Thing!

That a broadcast commercial might reflect this actual diversity of thought like the multicultural and sexually diverse fabric of modern America is as refreshing as a frosty bottle of Coke!

While All-American Coca Cola has now  beautifully embraced American diversity, the cranky critics of the Coke commercial crying “un American” seem  stuck in a time warp .

This isn’t “their” America – that is the Mad Men mid-century America where  the “other” was best kept in the shadows. Perhaps they long for a simpler time like the ones served up with extra sugar by Coke in their vintage advertisements.

Their notion of what constitutes an American is as dated as the portrayal of real America that Coca Cola once pictured in their ads

The Right to Happiness and a Bottle of Coke

vintage ad Coke soda fountain illustration 1946

“There’s always a welcome – at your favorite soda fountain.This congenial club is as warm and American as an old-fashioned barbecue or band concert right in the village square.” vintage Coca Cola ad 1946

Coke has long been associated with the American way.

“The soda fountain” that  dispensed Coca Cola  was, they explained in a 1946 ad,  “as American as Independence Day …the  very expression of Democracy!”

These slice of life images showing Americans enjoying a refreshing pause in their American dream life often took place in that  neighborhood soda fountain- “the friendliest place in town”- that is, as long as you weren’t Asian, Hispanic or African-American.

The “friendliest place in town” was also the whitest place in town.

 Americas Friendliest Neighborhood Club

vintage illustration Coke ad men at soda fountain

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1946

“Not far from you right now is a neighborhood branch of Americas friendliest club-the soda fountain,” begins this folksy Coke ad from 1946.

“Here folks get to know each other better. There’s always something going on in the friendly exchange at the soda fountain.”

Now instead of a “friendly soda fountain the place where everybody can good-naturedly air their opinions, parade their pet peeves and add your 2 bits worth to world opinions,”  we have the internet where friendly folk can rage to their heart’s content

The Worlds Friendliest Club…Admission 5 cents

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1946 Illustration soda fountain

“Friendliness and Coca Cola,” the ad tells us, “go together, like bread and butter ” assuming it’s “white” bread
Vintage Coca Cola ad 1946

“At the soda fountain our young folks gather in the wholesome atmosphere of friendly refreshment., this 1946 ad begins,  “There every day new friendships are made and old friendships renewed.”

“Membership to this ‘congenial club’ cost only a nickel. ” Though Jews, Gays and Mexicans probably need not apply)

A Pause For The American Dream

vintage Coke ad 48 illustration  train travelers and pullman porter

When a person of color did make a rare appearance in advertising it was usually as a maid, butler or porter, such as this 1948 Coke ad portraying happy travelers being served by their Pullman Porter.

“Travel refreshed,” Coke urges the reader of the ad. “Many new services nowadays add to travelers contentment.”

Of course if you were Black in 1948 and traveling down south you’d still be sitting in the colored section of the train or in the back of the bus…services hadn’t changed for African-Americans.

vintage coke ad illustration graduates

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1936

Graduation- A Red-Letter Day

“Graduation day is a red-letter day in any family life,” the reader is assured in this Coca Cola ad from 1937. “Everybody’s happy and lets celebrate is the order of the day.”

Proud parents watch their recent college graduates receiving a diploma, that simple piece of paper insuring a great future- their ticket to the American Dream.

“That great day calls for the friendly pause.”

Now its the American Dream that’s on pause since that red-letter day takes on new meaning. Besides the dismal job market, the debt the graduate will struggle to pay off will keep him in the red for a lifetime.

Here’s to the Day- Gay Occasions

vintage coke ad illustration engagement party  47

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1947


Coke was made for gay occasions, according to this  ad that ran in 1947.

“A surprise shower for the bride-to-be. A time just made for friends, for fun, laughter and the good feelings all around. It’s one of those gay occasions that wouldn’t be quite the same without the sparkling refreshment of Coke. Take time to pause.”

Gay Americans would have to pause 66 years before they could toast each other at a wedding shower!

Here’s to the Day- Marriage Equality!


vintage coke ad illustation  Boy scouts

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1937 Boy Scouts

 Scouting is For All Boys

“On to Washington, shouts the Boy Scouts of America for their first national Jamboree. A group of good fellowship for all boys. Naturally ice cold Coca Cola will be there”

Time for a pause

Now  scouts can be morally straight and gay, thanks to the lifting of their long time ban on gay members.

Coke is For Everybody

Vintage Coke ad 1950 illustration Sprite coke machine

Vintage Coca Cola ad 1950

That a broadcast commercial might reflect this actual diversity of thought like the multicultural and sexually diverse fabric of modern America is as refreshing as a frosty bottle of Coke!

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

You Might Also Enjoy

On the Front Lines With Coke a Cola PtI

On the Front Lines With Coke a Cola PtII

All American Beauty

Boy Scouts Morally Straight and Gay

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  1. Seems like a Swede was in on the design of the bottle around 1915 – Alexander Samuelson. (Or rather, Samuelsson – Swedish names were traditionally created by taking the father’s first name, Samuel, and name a boy offspring ‘Samuels son’ – that is, Samuel’s son’.

    The practise was abandoned around 1900 when the bureaucracy was creating registers and found it difficult to keep track of persons and families. Yes, a girl would be called like Alexandra Samuelsdotter (Alexandra is a female form of Alexander, and the surname is, of course Samuel’s daughter. Back then, women kept their surname even after marriage. Some Swedes have dropped the second ‘s’ home in Sweden – those who emigrated to the US usually did so after a time to avoid confusion over the spelling.)


  2. Pingback: Coke & American Diversity-It’s the Real Thing | Our USA Magazine

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