The Lemon Kola Story

The Lemon Kola name was patented by the Lemon Kola Sales Agency Company of Roanoke, Va on July 2, 1912 (2), but the Lemon Kola Company, Inc. or Roanoke, Va was incorporated on August 17, 1911.(1) The Lemon Kola Sales Agency Company was “organized for the purpose of placing Lemon Kola Syrup on the market throughout the South and east”, with Elmore D. Heins as Secretary Treasurer(3), and N. W. Walters is President.(4)

It appears that Marion Bottling Works of Marion, VA might have been one of the first franchises for the brand as B. B. Thornton, who is the son of the owner of the Marion bottling Works J. L. Thornton, who is in charge of the factory also works for the Lemon Kola bottling works in Roanoke, VA, and is the person who bottled the first bottle of Lemon Kola according to this 1914 article.(5) If he was that close to the main company, connected that early with the brand, and has a father who is in the bottling business in his home town, then logic would dictate that he would wish to see the brand tried there early.

The next one I found is the Lemon Kola Bottling Works of Bluefield, W. VA, which began operations on August 3, 1912.(6) Later in 1913, it would be reported that the slogan for the brand was “Everybody’s Drinking it” according to this same article the base of this soda was pure lemon juice.(6) The Lemon-Kola Bottling Company of Norfolk, VA is incorporated on June 10, 1913, this company must have changed hands quite a bit as its name changes to the Lemon-Kola Bottling Works on June 12, 1914, and then to the Norfolk Lemon-Kola Corporation on December 28, 1915. The next is the Charlottesville Lemon-Kola Bottling Corporation Inc., which is actually located in Lynchburg, VA for some reason, which was incorporated on June 22, 1916.(7) There was a Lemon Kola Bottling Works in Petersburg, VA around 1917, and a Lemon Kola Bottling Works in Richmond, VA which was incorporated on January 13, 1916.(8) Virginia wasn’t the only state that Lemon Kola infiltrated, there was a franchise in Durham, NC, and Lexington NC.

The Lemon-Kola Company of Roanoke, VA was dissolved and the franchise surrendered on February 26, 1917, but the Lemon-Kola Sales Agency is still around by 1918, but it wouldn’t last too much longer. I have not come across anything in my research that Coca-Cola sued the company over the brand as they did King Cola, which was also from Roanoke, or the numerous other brands that Coca-Cola has sued over the years for unfair competition.

flint glass slug plate Lemon Kola bottle

blue glass variation slug plate Lemon Kola bottle

Lemon Kola tip tray from the Lemon-Kola Sales Agency, Inc. of Roanoke, VA

slug plate Marion Bottling Works Lemon Kola shard

Lemon-Kola bottle from the Bluefield Candy Company of Bluefield W. VA.

From the collection of Mike Stovall, photo by Mike Stovall
Lemon Kola of Roanoke, VA metal crate

Lemon Kola from Charlottesville, VA

Lemon Kola from Norfolk, VA

Lemon Kola reciept from Lynchburg, VA dated June 1, 1921

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(1) "Annual Report of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the Governor and General Assembly of Virginia" published 1911

(2) “Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the year” 1912

(3) “History of Roanoke city and history of the Norfolk & Western Railway Company” by E. B. Jacobs 1912

(4) “Bulletin of the National Association of Credit Men” Issue January 1916

(5) Smyth County News 1914

(6) Bluefield Daily Telegraph August 4, 1912, October 5, 1913

(7) "Annual Report of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the Governor and General Assembly of Virginia for the year ending December 31, 1916”

(8) "Annual Report of the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the Governor and General Assembly of Virginia" published 1917