In 1915, Earl R. Dean of the Root Glass Company sketched out his idea for a Coca-Cola bottle design contest. His design was inspired by an image of a cocoa pod, which he found in a book at the Emeline Fairbanks Library. Dean managed to create a prototype of the bottle just hours before the company’s production line was shut down for the season.
Coca-Cola was determined to stay at the top of the soft drink circuit and with competing companies closing in on their recipe, they needed a new and unique look that no other soda producer could copy. They solicited a nationwide contest for a bottle so recognizable that people would know its shape in the dark, and even if it was broken in pieces, it could still be identified. It was Terre Haute that would come out as the winner. There would be a few adjustments to increase the bottle's stability, but in the end Dean's prototype won and was on its way to becoming the most recognized form in the world.
Dean's name was not written on the patent. For reasons unknown, it was that of the Root plant supervisor Alexander Samuelson. However, for his efforts, Dean chose a lifetime employment with the company over a prize of $500.00. Ironically, that employment ended when the company was bought out by Owens-Illinois Glass Company in the 1930's. Mr. Dean went on to continue his work with other Midwestern glass manufacturers.
The original drawing displayed the front and back of the bottle. However only one side was required to be submitted for the patent. The sheet of paper was cut in half and only the back side image taken to Washington. That half reportedly no longer exists.