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Coca Wine

Angelo Mariani's Miraculous Elixir and the Birth of Modern Advertising

Published by Park Street Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A lavishly illustrated history of coca wine and the revolutionary advertising methods that made it a world-wide success

• Follows 19th-century pharmacist Angelo Mariani’s interest in coca from medical uses to the development and healing effects of his world-famous coca wine, Vin Mariani

• Explores the botany of coca, how it differs from cocaine, its traditional uses, and early scientific studies on coca from doctors, including Sigmund Freud

• Examines Mariani’s highly successful international advertising campaigns, the first to use celebrity endorsements, including testimonies from Pope Benedict XV, Sarah Bernhardt, Thomas Edison, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, William McKinley, Emile Zola, and Alphonse Mucha

One of the oldest and most potent natural stimulants, the leaves of the coca plant are the organic source from which cocaine is synthesized. Fresh coca leaves and products made from them have verified medicinal and healing properties--and not the same addictive qualities or negative side effects as cocaine. In the late 19th century coca products became hugely successful in Europe and the United States. The most famous was Vin Mariani, a coca-based tonic wine developed by Corsican pharmacist Angelo Mariani (1838-1914). Many celebrities sang its praises, including Pope Benedict XV, Sarah Bernhardt, Thomas Edison, H. G. Wells, William McKinley, Emile Zola, and the doctors of Ulysses S. Grant, who credited Vin Mariani with giving him the strength to finish his memoirs before his death.

In this full-color illustrated history of coca wine, the first of its kind, author Aymon de Lestrange follows Mariani’s interest in coca from its medicinal applications to the creation of the tonic wine. The author explores the botany of coca, how it differs from cocaine, its traditional use in pre-Columbian America, and scientific studies on coca from the 17th through 19th centuries, including from Sigmund Freud, who was a known user. He describes the introduction of coca in the U.S. and France and the many coca preparations then available at drugstores. He also studies the introduction of cocaine in these two countries and the prohibition laws that followed.

Aymon de Lestrange demonstrates how Mariani became, in many ways, the father of modern advertising with his highly successful advertising campaigns. He includes vivid reproductions of Mariani’s advertisements, many not seen since their original publication in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and shows how Mariani commissioned the top writers and artists of the day, such as Jules Chéret and Alphonse Mucha, to produce works celebrating coca wine. The author reveals how Vin Mariani was the forerunner of Coca-Cola, which clearly plagiarized not only Mariani’s product but also his advertising methods.

Looking to the future of coca, the author shows how it has gained renewed interest in the scientific community for its therapeutic and nutritional properties and in the spiritual community, which is seeking to rehabilitate the reputation of coca, the sacred plant of the Incas.


Chapter IV
The Medicinal Virtues of Vin Mariani
The Story of Coca in the United States and in France

It is the tragic story of U.S. President Grant that made Mariani’s wine famous in the United States. Since the summer of 1884, Grant suffered terminal throat cancer. Wishing to leave money to his family, he decided to write his memoirs. His doctors administered him Tea Mariani or Vin Mariani which relieved his pain and nourished him when he could no longer eat. In doing so they were able to extend the life of their illustrious patient for a few months so he could finish his book, completed just few days before his death. Americans became soon impassioned by this race against death.

Mariani became a kind of national hero. In 1885 he went to New York, according to a U.S. pharmaceutical magazine:

At the request of a number of prominent physicians who desired to get from him personally a better understanding of the nature, preparation, and administration of this wonderful medicine. In the case of General Grant, the physicians have found the merits of Vin Mariani to be all they could have expected.

Mariani published several monographs in the United States on coca and Vin Mariani, which contained, among other things, extracts of French and American medical articles and testimonials of doctors advocating his products.

In one of his monographs, Coca and Its Therapeutic Application (1890), he publishes a list of 2,880 American physician’s names: “Who have been good enough to formally endorse Vin Mariani, their experience in prescribing in hospital and private practice having caused them to believe the preparation valuable and reliable.”

Among these, we can mention the father of spinal anesthesia, Dr. Leonard Corning, who wrote in 1884 that “the preparation of coca known as Mariani’s Coca Wine is, so far as I know, the best in the market. It possesses the decided advantage of being manufactured from the fresh leaves which is an indispensable requisite.” He recommends it in cases of great depression. The Health Commissioner of New York City, Dr. Cyrus Edson, in his work on influenza recommends Vin Mariani as hot grog. Professor of Clinical Medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Beverley Robinson, recommends its use as a heart tonic, because of the excellent quality of the coca leaves.

Dr. Charles Sajous, physician of the throat and endocrinologist, recommended coca wine in cases of hoarseness of professional singers. The one he recommended was Vin Mariani, which, unlike other “coca wines on the market [which], are but solutions of cocaine,” possessed only an “infinitesimal amount” and did not cause constipation. “It can for that reason be administered continuously, in cases in which muscular weakness causes tremulousness of the voice.”

The plant and its therapeutic use were studied in the U.S. later than in France. Except a first article in 1861, and a second in 1870, it was not before 1876 to 1877 that several medical articles were published.(6) Their amount increased in 1880, along with the creation of the Therapeutic Gazette by the laboratory Parke Davis in Detroit. This journal published nearly twenty articles on coca between 1880 and 1884. They became one of Sigmund Freud’s most important sources for the writing of his 1884 article “Ueber coca.” One of the first indications highlighted in many of these articles was the treatment of the addictions to opium and morphine or alcoholism by coca.

Before becoming the great laboratory of production and sale of cocaine, Parke Davis proposed in its catalog of 1885, six coca-based products: the fluid extract of coca, coca wine, coca liquor, coca cigars, coca cigarettes (for respiratory ailments) and coca oil at 5% (to treat neuralgia). American coca imports exploded between 1884 and 1900, rising from 25 tons to 500 tons.

The name Mariani became known to all. People were writing him from around the world. In France, his coca wine was on the tip of everyone’s lips. So much so, that after the influenza epidemic of 1889 in Paris, his wine was one of the most highly recommended drugs. Charles Fauvel had even humorously called it “the lightning rod of the flu,” to be used as grog by mixing it in hot water and sugar.

Dr. Lieberman, Surgeon-in-Chief of the French army, said to have used his Mariani wine: With great success for profound anemia resulting from long and tedious campaigns in hot countries, and accompanied, as is nearly always the case, by gastrointestinal irritation with loss of appetite and dyspepsia [...] I have also employed it in cases, happily rare in our army, of chronic alcoholism, resulting from the abuse of brandy, absinthe or strong liquors [...] I have frequently seen hardened drinkers renounce their fatal habit and return to a healthy condition. I have also used Vin Mariani to save smokers of exaggerated habits, from nicotinism [...] I have also employed it with success for chronic bronchitis and pulmonary phthisis [consumption]. Vin Mariani increases the appetite and diminishes the cough in these two morbid states [...] Besides I have used it to the greatest advantage in convalescence from typhoid fever, when no wine, not even Bordeaux, was retained by the stomach on account of gastric irritation which is the rule after fevers of this nature[...].

Daily newspapers, over the years, multiply the articles on Mariani’s products and their therapeutic properties. In 1909, Le Figaro reports that the American explorer Robert E. Peary (1856-1920), had taken the precaution to bring with him, during his expedition to the North Pole, several cases of Vin Mariani.

About The Author

Aymon de Lestrange has degrees in literature and history. He served as an Information Officer at the United Nations Information Center and Cultural Attaché at the French Embassy in Lima, Peru. A bibliophile, publisher, and collector, he is well-known for his important collection of drug-related items, including the most comprehensive collection on Angelo Mariani and coca items in the world. He lives in Paris, France.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Park Street Press (December 18, 2018)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620557853

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Raves and Reviews

“A long-overdue, lavishly illustrated historical tribute to Vin Mariani, the coca-infused wine invented by Angelo Mariani in the late 19th century. It was once one of the world’s best-known and best-advertised products, endorsed by popes, queens, presidents, actresses, singers, and just about anyone who was anyone. Yes, it contained a small amount of cocaine, but it was only when that drug was isolated as a concentrated white powder that it derived its evil reputation. In the meantime, it inspired (indirectly) Coca-Cola, which unfortunately added a great deal of sugar, though it still contained decocainized coca leaf extract.”

– Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola

“Historians have long noted the role of Angelo Mariani’s pioneering 19th-century beverage, Vin Mariani, in the history of coca and cocaine but yearned for a well-researched biography. This is finally it! Aymon de Lestrange’s exhaustive reach and the many beautiful and lavish illustrations--many new discoveries--are alone a treasure. The chapter on Mariani’s laboratory and its fascinating products is a rich contribution to knowledge. And Coca Wine is so timely: as failing drug prohibitions come into doubt across the globe, we need to know more about the positive cultural roles played by benign coca health products like Vin Mariani, which, like absinthe, may one day soon revive!”

– Paul Gootenberg, author of Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug

“Aficionados of the divine plant of the Incas in both its natural (coca) and synthetic (cocaine) forms will be fascinated to learn this time-honored (if sometimes reviled) intoxicant was once marketed as a tonic beverage--a fine Bordeaux with a kick--that made the cultured classes across Western Europe and the U.S. acclaim the superiority of Mariani’s Coca Wine for both its medicinal and inspirational qualities and unleash a host of competitors, including one enterprising American druggist in Atlanta. Aymon de Lestrange has written the definitive study of this all-but-forgotten recreational beverage, enhanced by exquisite color reproductions of the work of the artists and designers for whom the wine inspired a style that stimulates our senses as much today as it did for our ancestors.”

– Michael Horowitz, cofounder of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library

"Impressively informed and informative, beautifully illustrated throughout, notably comprehensive, exceptionally well written, organized and presented for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject, Coca Wine: Angelo Mariani's Miraculous Elixir and the Birth of Modern Advertising is a unique, extraordinary, and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library collections."

– Midwest Book Review, Clint Travis

"Coca Wine is beautifully designed with color images throughout, including advertisements, product packaging, period art, and portraits. The story is engrossing enough for the general reader and an easy read, but meticulously documented for the scholar. It is an important contribution to the histories of advertising, food and beverages, and drugs, and serves as an in-depth complement to Mark Pendergrast’s For God, Country and Coca-Cola (CH, Oct'93, 31-1032) and Paul Gootenberg’s Cocaine: Global Histories (Routledge, 1999). Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers."

– J. M. Deutsch, Drexel University, CHOICE

"With considerable evidence, Lestrange argues that Mariani’s enterprise was of singular importance in facilitating the entrance of Andean coca into European and North American consumer culture and into the stream of global commerce. Though unabashedly iconographic, inclined toward a “great man” account of history, and lean on analysis, Lestrange’s biography of Mariani is engaging and full of original, often surprising new research that includes a rich array of visual sources...specialists will find much of interest in Lestrange’s research into a critical conjuncture in the evolution of global coca cultures. Non-specialists will enjoy the author’s absorbing and colorful exposition of a fascinating subject."

– Andrew B. Ehrinpeis, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, July-December 2019

"This is a very informative and easy to read book. It provides a history of coca, cocaine, product advertising and the man who produced what was to become, in its time, the world’s most famous medicine. The lavish illustrations are of a very high quality, and there is hardly a page that does not possess one. This is a book for all those with an interest in the history of pharmacy."

– Peter G. Homan, Pharmaceutical Historian

"Written for a broad audience, Lestrange’s work provides a fascinating foray into belle-époque coca culture as part of a larger cultural field. While scholars would do well to turn to some of Lestrange’s secondary sources (David Smith, Elizabeth Emery) for more theoretically grounded discussions of vin Mariani’s place in belle-époque France and turn-of-the-century United States, Coca Wine provides a richly documented and evocative case study that cultural historians will find useful."

– John Westbrook, Bucknell University, Journal of Contemporary French Civilization

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