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Gay-Ola (originally Gleeola) was a bottled soft drink manufactured and sold by J. C. Wells' Gleeola Company, founded in August 1910 at 106-108 18th Street South. The firm was incorporated with $100,000 capital and equipment capable of producing 4,000 gallons of syrup per day. Separate bottling companies were established in Montgomery, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee. The firm traded on the notion that Wells had been able to reproduce the secret formula for the popular Coca-Cola beverage. The company distinguished itself, at a time when many soft drink products were being investigated for impurities or false advertising claims, with its commitment to the requirements of the Pure Food Act.

By October of its first year, the company had split, with the Wells Cola Company continuing to operate in Montgomery as a Pepsi-Cola bottler and the Birmingham and Memphis locations changing their names to "Gay-Ola", headquartered in Memphis with E. C. Bolton as president. The company aggressively expanded with offices in Dallas, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; and Los Angeles, California. By June 1911 the company was selling 40,000 gallons of syrup per month. The company's Memphis investors expected to sell a million gallons of syrup in 1912.

In February 1911, however, the Coca-Cola company sued Gay-Ola for Trade Mark infringement, alleging that the design of their bottles, with a script logo in a diamond-shaped label, was intended to mislead consumers. After an initial ruling against the Atlanta-based soda giant, Coca-Cola won an appeal, forcing Gay-Ola to change the design of their logo, and later their bottles. In another lawsuit, Coca-Cola claimed that Gay-Ola had offered to sell Coca-Cola bottlers and soda fountains their syrup more cheaply in un-marked containers, implying that they could substitute it freely with consumers unable to tell the difference. A decision handed down in Memphis' Circuit Court in 1914 limited the Gay-Ola company to distributing its products in distinctive packaging, which now promised that it was "The Improved Cola".

Over the next several years, the company's pace of growth slowed, but the drink remained popular into the 1920s.


  • Smith, Dennis I. (1983?) Birmingham Bottlers 1883-1983. Birmingham: self-published pamphlet.