The Golden Eagle Promotion: How Sprite Bottles Became a National Park Service Advertisement

The Golden Eagle Promotion: How Sprite Bottles Became a National Park Service Advertisement

While looking through the artifacts recovered from the 2020 Service Road project, the CAP crew found an interesting green glass bottle fragment. After further investigation, I found that this fragment was the remaining portion of a Sprite bottle made by the Chattanooga Glass Company (as indicated by the “C” in a circle logo) (Lockhart et al. n.d. (b)). But what could make this find even cooler? The name of a national park embossed into the base!

Now I know you’re wondering, why is Sequoia National Park on the bottom of a 1960s-1970s Sprite bottle? Great question! 

It turns out that Coca-Cola and the National Park Service have had a long history of collaborating with one another. It all began in the 1930s when a Coca-Cola ad consisted of bears drinking Coca-Cola in Yellowstone National Park (Hanna n.d.). Additional advertisements soon appeared, showing national park landscapes and cowboys drinking Coca-Cola.

collection of mid-20th century coca-cola adverts showing people drinking Coca-Coal in national parks.
(images provided by The Coca-Cola Company, as cited in Hanna n.d.)

How does our Sequoia National Park Sprite bottle fit into the picture?

Well, this bottle was part of a promotion of the national parks and national monuments titled Golden Eagle (Hassett 2016; Lockhart 2011). In 1966, the U.S. government was promoting a “golden permit”, priced at seven dollars, that would allow families to visit any of the national parks or monuments as often as they wanted from April 1966 to March 1967 (Hassett 2016). This led to a partnership between the National Park Service and The Coca-Cola Company to promote this permit. Urging people to “See America,” the promotion included a bottle cap sweepstakes with a $33,000 grand prize (McCarthy 2019). Additionally, thirty-six different national parks and national monuments were embossed onto the base of seven to ten-ounce Sprite bottles (Hassett 2016; Lockhart 2011; McCarthy 2019). The national park/monument bottles were produced by many bottle manufacturers and distributed to the public, providing an advertisement for the National Park Service (Hassett 2016). The Golden Eagle Passport has since been discontinued and has been replaced by the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Annual Pass (National Park Service 2019). 

Image showing the 36 national parks authorized to appear on Sprite bottles:

Acadia; Big Bend; Everglades; Gettysburg National Military Park; Grand Canyon; Mammoth Cave; Olympic; Rocky Mountain; Saratoga National Historical Park; Sequoia; Shenandoah; Zion; Hot Springs; White Sands; Isle Royale; Great Smoky Mountains; Ft. Sumter National Monument; Shiloh National Military Park; Lincoln Memorial; Joshua Tree National Monument; Yellowstone; Glacier; Crater lake; Wind Cave; Mt. McKinley; Cumberland Gap National Historical Park; Hawaii; Petrified Forest National Monument; George Washington Carver National Monument; Death Valley National Monument; Mound City National Monument; Scotts Bluff National Monument; Platt; Grand Teton; Statue of Liberty National Monument; Chickamauga National Military Park
Images provided by “The Refresher” magazine, as cited in McCarthy 2019

While the first of these Sprite bottles were introduced in 1966, the latest date that these bottles were created would have probably been 1978 (Lockhart 2011). The primary labeling style of these bottles was white applied color labels with dimples along the sides (Lockhart 2011). While these bottles are not produced today, bottle enthusiasts and beachcombing groups still will collect these unique pieces (Hassett 2016, McCarthy 2019). 

 Sprite bottle with white applied color label
Sprite bottle with white ACL; image from Pickling Pittsburgh 2021
 Sprite bottle with white ACL
Sprite bottle with white ACL; image from Pickling Pittsburgh 2021

The Golden Eagle promotion would not be the last time we see collaborations between the two groups. Since the 1960s, Coca-Cola has provided funding for multiple aspects relating to national parks and monuments. This includes funding for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, funding for visitor education centers at Yellowstone and Gettysburg National Military Parks, and funding for recycling and trail programs at national parks (Hanna n.d., McCarthy 2019). 

Since CAP’s identification of the Sequoia National Park Sprite bottle, two more Golden Eagle-era Sprite bottles have been cataloged, also from the 2020 Service Road excavations. One has Olympic National Park on its base, while the other has Isle Royale National Park. Both were produced by Anchor Hocking (Lockhart et al. n.d. (a)). Hopefully, future excavations on campus will produce even more of these unique Sprite bottles!

Olympic National Park Sprite bottle
Olympic National Park Sprite bottle
Base of Isle Royale National Park Sprite bottle
Base of Isle Royale National Park Sprite bottle
Side of Isle Royale National Park Sprite bottle with white ACL
Side of Isle Royale National Park Sprite bottle with white ACL
 Other side of Isle Royale National Park Sprite bottle with white ACL
Other side of Isle Royale National Park Sprite bottle with white ACL

References 

  • Hanna, Amber
    No date. “Celebrating Nearly 10 Decades of Park Partnership with Coca-Cola.” Electronic document, nationalparks.org. Available online, https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/celebrating-nearly-10-decades-park-partnership-coca-cola. Accessed February, 2022. 
  • Hassett, Jana
    2016 Sprite and the National Parks. Electronic document, https://frontierhomestead.org/homestead-telegraph/category/glass+bottles, accessed February, 2022. 
  • Lockhart, Bill
    2011. Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Alamogordo (1955-present). In Soda Bottles and Bottling at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Privately published. 
  • Lockhart, Bill, Bill Lindsey, Carol Serr, Pete Schulz, and Beau Schriever
    No date (a). “Manufacturer’s Marks and Other Logos on Glass Containers.” Article, sha.org. Available online, https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/ALogoTable.pdf. Accessed February, 2022.
  • Lockhart, Bill, Bill Lindsey, Carol Serr, Pete Schulz, and Beau Schriever
    No date (b). “Manufacturer’s Marks and Other Logos on Glass Containers.” Article, sha.org. Available online, https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/CLogoTable.pdf. Accessed February, 2022. 
  • McCarthy, Mary T
    2019 Sprite Delight. Electronic document, https://www.beachcombingmagazine.com/blogs/news/sprite-delight, accessed February, 2022.  
  • National Park Service
    2019 2019 National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program. Electronic document, https://www.nps.gov/amis/planyourvisit/passes.htm, accessed February, 2022.
  • Picking Pittsburgh
    2021 Vintage Sprite 7oz Green Glass Bottle Embosed Dots Coca Cola Company National Parks Monuments. Electronic document, https://www.pickingpittsburgh.com/listing/508567537/vintage-sprite-7oz-green-glass-bottle, accessed February, 2022.


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