Asa Candler’s NON-million-dollar letter

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Asa Griggs Candler Sr.

Many Emory people know of the “million-dollar letter” written by Asa Griggs Candler Sr. on July 16, 1914, to the Educational Commission of the Southern Methodist Church.

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That was the spur to planting Emory University in Atlanta and eventually moving Emory College from its home in Oxford. Less well known are the hundreds of other Candler letters deposited in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory.

Candler was a great letter writer — great not only in the volume of personal and business-related missives he penned but also in the candor of his messages. As he aged, his penmanship deteriorated, looking as if every line was dashed off in a frenzy to keep up with his thoughts. But the first letter we have from him shows something else.

Candler letter to Griggs

Written to Candler’s namesake–Dr. Asa Griggs, of West Point, Georgia–the letter presents the young Candler, age 21, looking for better prospects. Having considered a career in medicine, he opted instead for pharmacy. “The country has enough [doctors] without they [the country] were better. Besides I think there is more money to be made as a druggist than as a physician.”

Having secured a position in Cartersville, Georgia, where he had spent two years learning the business, Candler now was ready for greater things. Was it possible, he wondered, that the physician for whom he was named, and who was “so widely known both professionally & socially,” might open a door or two for him? “I am not particular about the place,—where it is—will go to any place where I can do well.”

No evidence exists that Dr. Griggs responded to the young Asa, but within a year Candler had made his way to Atlanta, knocked on several doors, and landed a job assisting pharmacist John Howard. He also met Howard’s daughter, Lucy, who would become Asa’s wife. Fifteen years later he would buy controlling rights to John Pemberton’s recipe for Coca-Cola.

Gary Hauk

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